The Olympic Games, Virtuous Citizens, and Multiple Intelligences

The less said about the Olympics closing ceremony, the better. Although we could could go on at length about it. For the most part it was more than two hours of silly, shallow, showbizzy nonsense, with some truly terrible music – which is incredible when you consider the amount of wonderful music that Britain has in its amazing ‘back catalogue’.

The Guardian has put a good collection of photographs of this so-called ceremony on its website, which pretty much capture the essence of the event. The photos of fire and fireworks are fabulous, and you get a sense of the radiance of the athletes from some of the shots. The majority, however, show hopeless has-beens like the Spice Girls (with ‘Posh’ wearing a truly stupid short dress with a massive ‘train’), George Michael (dressed as sleaze personified) and Brian May (dressed in a ridiculous long mac or overcoat on a warm summer’s evening). There are also photos of Britain’s naff ‘supermodels’, dressed in their (British) designer clothes, and various BMW cars. This was basically a giant catwalk of saleable items – be they clothes, cars, singers or bands.

For anyone who’s interested, Michael Billington published a hopeless review of the event in the Guardian. You learn more from the hundreds of pithy readers’ comments ‘below the line’ than you do from Billington’s efforts.

There’s no doubt that a considerable amount of creative effort went into the production of the ceremony, but to what effect? This is what happens when creativity isn’t directed by spiritual intelligence, artistic vision and human (as opposed to commercial) values. This is what happens when showbiz values and commercialism are allowed to predominate.

According to Wikipedia, the ceremony’s Music Director David Arnold had said: “It’s going to be beautiful, cheeky, cheesy, camp, silly and thrilling”.

Well now, let’s see. Very little of it was beautiful. None of it was thrilling. I’m not sure which bits were supposed to be ‘cheeky’, but most of it was indeed cheesy, camp and silly. And also pretty shameful.


Three weeks ago 3D Eye said this:

Last night’s opening ceremony of the 30th Olympic Games was, as expected, a terrific mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous, the eccentric and the mainstream, the joyful and the laughable. Clearly it amazed, entertained, surprised and delighted . . .

We went on to say,

It’s beginning to sink in with a lot of people that this is a very important time for Britain, for England, and for London – especially East London. The eyes of the world are focused on a four-yearly phenomenon, and also on a nation, a city and a culture. What are they going to see?

There are those who hope that the rest of the world will learn that this is an amazing country full of cultural riches plus warm, decent and welcoming people. Others worry that the worst elements of our society will bring shame and disgrace on the city and the nation.

Tim Soutphommasane had an article in yesterday’s Observer in which he wrote,

By now, Britons may be growing weary of post-Olympic celebration and reflection. But let me add an Australian voice of congratulations to London and Britain. The Games were a stunning triumph. Many Australians watching, myself included, could only concede that they could well have been the best ever.

Perhaps it was Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony that did the most to define the legacy of the Games. What was especially striking about it, at least to my eyes, was its story of Britain as a project – that ongoing project of a New Jerusalem. It was a convincing argument that Britishness wasn’t about nostalgic yearning for the stuff of an imperial past, but something that existed in the present and future.

It is politics and communities that are the forces of history, not economics. To adopt a market economy isn’t to capitulate to a market society. A civilised society requires a strong state, which should not only protect the rights of individuals but also enable them to fulfil their potential.

It is patriotism that provides the fuel for the engine of a good society. This doesn’t mean embracing a tribal belief in the superiority of one’s country. There must be room for reason and reflection. But essentially we’re talking about a desire to contribute to the common good and to improve one’s country.

At the moment many countries are looking to Britain as an example of a dynamic multicultural society united by a generous patriotism. The Olympic moment provided a glimpse of a modern Britain that can inspire a world still learning to live with diversity. It is a partial, fragile vision. After all, a country can only be at its best when it has virtuous citizens.

Need we reiterate that being ‘virtuous’ is part of being spiritually intelligent? As is generosity, decent values and a desire to contribute to the common good. These things are the antithesis of selfishness and meanness of spirit.

As for enabling individuals to fulfil their potential, 3Di will continue to argue for a much better education system that truly sets out to enable individuals of all abilities, talents and strengths to become engaged with enthusiastic, self-directed, lifelong learning that leads to finding one’s element and becoming a successful, productive and creative member of a cohesive society. We need an education system that sets young people on the right path for life through the development of all six of their intelligences. We’re not there yet. Sadly, we’re still very far from it – in spite of the successes of our athletes, and the warmth and generosity of the majority of our citizens.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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4 Responses to The Olympic Games, Virtuous Citizens, and Multiple Intelligences

  1. 3D Eye says:

    Agreed, Karen. We can’t have everything, but we could have had a lot more of the good stuff, and a lot less of the second & third rate dross that was put in front of us!


  2. Karen Wan says:

    I kept waiting to see some musical snippet in either ceremony from Led Zeppelin. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember hearing any clips from them. It seems like Stairway to Heaven would have fit in somewhere. 🙂 Some of the choices that were made as being representative of British contributions to the world, did surprise me.

    Like you, I enjoyed the opening ceremony more than the closing one. All in all, I still see the London Olympics as a very well organized event. Here in America, I believe it was one of the most watched Olympics ever. Most of us were watching as much of it as we could!


    • 3D Eye says:

      Thanks Karen. I guess Robert Plant is still unwilling to re-form the band, even for a one-off event like the Olympics; and after his unfortunate Beijing appearance (for the London ‘showcase’!) I imagine Jimmy Page would have been unwilling to get involved with the Olympics again in any way. It’s a pity – clearly the combination of Page and Plant & co produced some incredible music in the past, and there’s no real reason why they couldn’t still create music of great power and originality. One thing about the blues – there’s no age limit to performing this music, as we know from the likes of John Lee Hooker, BB King, and all the other ‘greats’. I agree with you about ‘Stairway’ – one of the most original, startling and enjoyable tracks of all time; it has definitely stood the test of time.

      I can’t imagine Jimmy feels too proud of being at the centre of this car-crash of tacky nonsense –

      Here’s the real deal –


      • Karen Wan says:

        You have a good point with those videos. Well, here’s to hoping that somewhere along those two greats get together again and create some new music together. I seem to remember them working together on one of the songs for Raising Sand, but that’s not the same as performing the Led Zeppelin standards. I was just surprised that the Olympics team didn’t even have a Led Zeppelin video clip somewhere in the Olympics like they did with other bands. I guess we can’t have everything! 🙂 Karen


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