Sunday, 6 April 2008

Torch Errors

I've just seen the BBC's coverage of the Olympic Torch procession and I have to say I think it went splendidly for everyone.

The Chinese government were able to record whole seconds of footage that didn't show anti-Chinese banners, embattled security guards three deep round the torch or weeping Tibetan mothers. What a triumphant demonstration of their new place in the community of nations!

The British authorities were able to offer a tantalising glimpse of 2012, with a characteristically well-judged and choreographed event. I don't know which bright spark realised that a 31 mile journey would give people plenty of opportunity to express their enthusiastic support , but promotion surely cannot be far away.

Gordon Brown, I thought, did well to avoid the obvious blunders. Some would have made a principled case for supporting the Olympic ideal as something that rises above the messy business of international relations. Others would have taken the opportunity to publicise Britain's principled stand against China's human rights violations. Brown - typically deft at set-piece media events - brilliantly stood there like a lemon, carefully not laying hands on the torch and saying nothing. What clearer signal could there be of the government's well thought out stance on this knotty moral issue?

Finally the protesters, who once again showed that there is no issue that cannot be solved if we all get together, paint our faces, set off fire extinguishers and generally behave like crazed chimps in a nunnery. There can, after all, be no finer way to win the hearts of Middle England than assaulting a former Blue Peter presenter.

In all honesty, my sympathy is with the protesters. China wants to use the Olympics for kudos - to present itself at its glittering best to the world. Given that it's a corrupt, immoral and violently repressive regime, the strategy of using the self-same event to present that image to the world seems only right and just.

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