The Olympic show: three towns and an airport
The Olympic opening ceremony, with its portrayal of the transformation of Britain, prompted people to offer their own commentaries. Some were positive, others negative.
The gloriously inventive Olympic opening ceremony, which included many examples of dry humour much loved by the British (regrettably, many of these might have passed unnoticed by non-British!), took place in the redeveloped region in Stratford, London. This region, described in The Times newspaper as a
"once grubby patch of forgotten London, with its poisoned earth and its broken buildings and its vast collection of abandoned supermarket trollies"
has been transformed into an area of beauty, centred upon the Olympic stadium. This beauty was symbolised in the initial portrayal of "Merrie England", with its small farms, maypole dancing, a cricket match and other idyllic scenes reminding us of times gone by. Exactly like one might have imagined that other Stratford, properly titled as Stratford-on-Avon, known as the home of Shakespeare.
The transformation analogy continued with the actor Sir Kenneth Branagh, dressed up as the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, reciting Caliban's "Be Not Afeard" speech in Shakespeare's play "The Tempest". However, the portrayal as Brunel, following the singing of the Hymn "Jerusalem" which uses the poem of William Blake (including its reference to "Dark Satanic Mills") heralded the transformation of parts of Merrie England by the Industrial Revolution. This section of the show was called pandemonium, which comes from Pandæmonium,the capital of Hell in the poem "Paradise Lost" by John Milton: it emphasised the enrichment of some citizens by the toil of many others, including child labour. A relevant saying in the North of England, where were found many of those satanic mills with tall chimneys belching smoke, is
Milton subsequently wrote another poem, "Paradise Regained", which might be how citizens of Stratford London now see their town. However, one correspondent wrote a letter to The Times on the subject of The Olympics, in particular of the time of the previous London Olympics in 1948 (when London's Stratford was indeed a bombed wasteland). She then lived in Hounslow, which a Times reporter had described as
"a dreary expanse of westernmost London distinguished primarily by its utter lack of distinction".
She agreed that this region is now one of drab homes, bucket shops and cheap Asian restaurants, but reported that at the time of the previous London Olympics, it was a lovely small town, with some beautiful houses, cinemas, shops, sporting facilities and a small local airfield called Heston Aerodrome. She even reminisced that on her 21st birthday her husband treated her to a flight around the area, at the exhorbitant cost of 10/6d. Perhaps a different example of Paradise Lost.
Today, the airfield is still there, being used to bring in participants in these Olympics, but its name has now changed. It is now called
Heathrow International Airport