Aidan Burley MP: Twitter twit

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The smooth running of the London Olympics so far have been tarnished somewhat by the antics of Conservative MP Aidan Burley, who tweeted that the Opening Ceremony was little more than ‘multicultural cr*p’. It led to a torrent of criticism, including from fellow Conservative MPs.

Other criticism in a Daily Mail article, since deleted from its website, queried the reality of a mixed-race family such as the fictional one featured in the ceremony. While such criticisms are worrying enough as it is, the one thing that should be pointed out is that critics of the Opening Ceremony’s multicultural nature have missed the point entirely.

Director Danny Boyle’s vision was to show Britain’s past and present contribution to the world through a narrative of constant change with British developments such as the Industrial Revolution and the creation of the World Wide Web. The crucial point brought across in these segments is that it is a history that all of us, regardless of background, can take pride in and we all contribute to make Britain a successful, vibrant nation today.

This came across in the casting of BME actors, many of them Stratford residents, in the historical scenes as well as the showcasing of East London rap artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah as part of a montage of all forms of British popular music going back almost 50 years. Burley was riled by the ceremony and music choice for being ‘multicultural cr*p’. However the content of the musical montage made his later attempts at ‘clarification’ more illogical, as all forms of music, that were representative of many cultures were on display.

Through his tweets, Burley revealed how out of touch he was with modern Britain. In defending his comments, he talked about representing his largely white, working-class electorate in Cannock Chase – opening up a new debate entirely about how such voters are routinely patronised by Oxbridge educated, upper-class politicians such as Burley and how he and other critics fail to recognise the point of the ceremony.

It is there to show the country as it actually is, not to repeat tired, old tropes created by looking solely at the past, creating stereotypes in the process. Opening ceremonies of past Olympics have run on similar themes so it was right that London did too.

Indeed, it was London’s vibrancy, modernity and diversity that won it the right to host the Olympics in 2005. Our bid video showed London as it truly was while the bid video for nearest rivals Paris revelled in the old stereotypes about France and its capital, ignoring its own significant BME communities in the process.

If Burley continues to defend his position, then maybe he should realise that he only has a home Olympic Opening Ceremony to criticise because our multicultural society was shown for the world to see in the bidding process, highlighting our ease with making the worlds athletes feel at home this summer. Perhaps he can think about that before he tweets next.

Robert Austin

Archived Comments

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Opening Ceremony

I loved the Opening Ceremony, but I don't agree that it was a reflection of multicultural Britain.

It was very Christian. It was a reflection of an assimilated black/white Christian Britain.
Everyone was depicted as having assimilated into the majority western popular culture.

The Conservative MP was wrong. It wasn't at all multicultural. It was multiracial though.

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