James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James at The Springfields Academy
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
We love the local connection in great and international affairs. ‘Chippenham Lad Escapes Earthquake (5000 dead)’ reads the old (and very probably apocryphal) headline. Maybe that’s what Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony was all about. I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of Ashton Keynes at one stage and was proud of John Bentley pupils from Calne lining the route for the athletes, and of Box girl Amelia Hempleman-Adams with the torch atop the London Eye. There were so many little allusions to local matters in the magnificent spectacle which Mr Boyle laid on that much of it must have been lost on international observers.
I had my doubts about Brunel depicted as a cigar-chomping industrialist grinding the faces of the poor in the dust; it was a shame to give the world the impression that our green and pleasant land is gone for all time; and why was there no mention of the greatest of all Brits, Winston Churchill? I was hesitant about some of the more overtly political statements. And did we really need to have all of the announcements – including the introduction to The Queen – in French first and then English?
Nonetheless, who could fail to have loved the rural scenes at the beginning; the five Olympic rings forged from the sweat of the working man; The Queen and James Bond; or Mr Bean hamming it up? The staging, choreography and fireworks were beyond words superb. And wasn’t the symbolism of the individual leaves coming together to form the final flame simply magnificent in vision and engineering? So mildly bonkers in some ways, but very English in flavour, I thought, and a nice contrast to the military precision of the Chinese event four years ago.
You don’t get a better straw poll than the 25 or so houses in Royal Wootton Bassett I visited on Saturday afternoon judging ‘Bassett in Bloom,’ and they were unanimously in favour of the ceremony. So let’s cast our very British scepticism to one side, and unite in welcoming the games, enjoying the spectacle, and looking forward to celebrating all that is best about Britain in the contests themselves. Let the best men and women win, and let us all rejoice in their near-superhuman efforts.
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