Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Joe Nawaz's TV View: Scotland the brave ... to put on that Commonwealth Games opener

Wee buns: Glasgow’s colourful opening ceremony
Wee buns: Glasgow’s colourful opening ceremony
John Barrowman performs at the opening ceremony

Commonwealth is an funny old word, innit? It implies an equal share of resources as equal partners, and all of that noble rhetorical tat.

When referring to that bizarre post-colonial glee club that is the Commonwealth of Nations, it also implies that, say, black Jamaicans and white New Zealanders benefit from a mutual share of the former empire's bounty.

It's an hilariously vapid conceit that was only highlighted by the charity strand of the jaw-dropping Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. And when I say jaw-dropping, I mean in a "did I just see what I just saw?" kind of way. But more of that – and John Barrowman's Scottish accent – later.

In fact, with an appalling irony unheard of since that awful Alanis Morrissette song, it might be argued that the only level playing field that the Commonwealth nations share is the literal sporting one. That's the one place where Jamaicans will happily trounce New Zealanders.

The big charity gimmick, Children of the Commonwealth, inadvertently highlighted the inequities within the "Commonwealth family" by having Ewan McGregor et al cheerfully pointing out just how many children of a dusky hue needed our charity. We could help through the act of texting, which, considering where the greatest density of mobile phones resides in the Commonwealth, was the final tipping point into satire for a cynic like me.

But contradictions aside, not to mention the fact that there are 71 competing nations in the games but 53 Commonwealth member states, there was always the opening ceremony to enjoy.

It was always going to compare unfavourably to Danny Boyle's jaw-dropping Olympics spectacular, but in this momentous year for Scotland this was – as Welshman Huw Edwards put it – "an opportunity to say something about Glasgow, Scotland, the Scottish character".

What it was, was American John Barrowman in full "Donald, where's yer troosers" mode, making Russ Abbott's C.U. Jimmy seem like uncanny character study.

In a song, apparently written by a committee of xenophobic English schoolchildren, the very essence of "Scote-ish-ness" was forensically skimmed. "There's monsters in our loughs, hello to you and welcome to the kingdom of the Scots!" bellowed Barrowman, all tartan and teeth.

"Och the Clyde, it fills me with pride," he continued.

Barrowman chuntered on, fearlessly taking on any semi-racist stereotype he was fed and battering it into mere Brigadoon-level offensiveness through the sheer force of his show-tune chutzpah.

And there was plenty more where that came from: "We come from a land o heather, where man wear kilts and women blether. Don't leave home without an umbrella, be prepared for some Scottish weth-aaaaaa!"

Barrowman did redeem himself by planting a smacker on the lips of a male extra, thus cocking a snook at those 43 Commonwealth countries who think God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

But that didn't come up in Huw's post-match analysis. "Some of it was majestic, some of it mundane," he reflected, spectacularly missing the mark twice over.

Camp, ludicrous and kinda fun it was. All the things that the ensuing Games won't be.

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