Alex Massie

Opening Proceedings

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James Hamilton is quite right to suggest that there's no way London can compete with Beijing's spectacular and often beautiful (if also, as he says, "frenziedly gauche") opening ceremony. And he's correct to argue that we shouldn't try to. In any case, opening ceremonies tend towards the vulgar. When they are not bafflingly abstract they're unnecessarily, if revealingly, boastful. Hey, look at us! Hosting the games should be enough in and of itself, without any need for this rather naff sort of preening.

Now admittedly an absence of preening is itself a form of preening. But there you have it. My suggestion for the London 2012 games would be for the band of the Grenadier Guards to play a few tunes (including "Colonel Bogey", "The Dambusters March", "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kitbag" and plenty of Elgar of course...) while the athletes march past. Then Her Majesty can cut the ribbon and declare the games open. Then we could have tea. No need for anything more than that.

At the very least this would permit one to argue that the games are about the athletes, not about putting a city or a country or a civilisation on the map. After a games pregnant with symbolism and all that, it would be nice to have an Olympiad that was just about the sport...

The pomp lies in the lack of pomp, old boy. That'll show 'em that we have no need for vainglorious boosterism. Take that!

Mind you, elements of the Chinese opening ceremony were appealingly amateurish. I had wondered what a pipe band was doing in Beijing. It turns out that the Chinese though the pipes and drums just the ticket to represent europe and, accordingly, the Mains of Fintry pipe band were recruited, largely because, one assumes, they were the fist pipe band anyone in China found. Still, a splendid, bizarre touch: an amateur Grade Four (ie, low-level, Grade One being the best bands) band from Tayside that received an invitation to the Olympic Games. No wonder they thought it a joke at first...

They were sent an e-mail by ceremony organiser Kexin Zhang in September last year after they were spotted performing in France.

But it took them a few weeks to respond to the invitation because they assumed it had been a wind up.

The musicians, who range in age from 13-63, describe themselves as focusing on friendship and family and by their own admission rarely compete in national championships.

Piper Eddie Wighton, who has played with the band for seven years, said he was stunned by the original offer. He said: "Never in a million years would I have imagined that we would have an opportunity like this. "It has been like winning the lottery. It seemed too good to be true but we looked into it a bit further and started to get excited."

Pipe Major Richard Smith, who has been playing for over 30 years, added: "It is a great honour and a pleasure. "My only trouble has been selecting 16 members to play from our band of 26 - no easy task but I was a very popular man for a time."

Local businesses and community groups got together to ensure the band, who are a registered charity, were kitted out for their debut.

Mr Wighton added: "We didn't even have a full set of uniforms never mind the funds to accommodate a trip to Beijing.

"We got busy writing off to everyone we could think of for support and were amazed at the response"

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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