Monday, August 13, 2012

Olympics, bhangra, & sports

Oh snap, I'm actually writing in my blog again...

So if you were watching the Olympic closing ceremonies last night, you probably saw bhangra dancers prominently featured during the end of the Monty Python sketch… it was actually pretty funny (in my view anyways). But why was it included? There are two reasons I think… one is a simple answer, the other is pure speculation and perhaps more interesting

1. Sorta clear answer: England obviously has a big Indian community and the British Punjabi’s there helped make bhangra super popular starting in the early 90s. Heck most of the best bhangra music comes from desis who live in England (and they play bhangra on the radio there). So there is a cultural element to why a ceremony celebrating British culture would incorporate influences both to and from it. Plus people who look like Hugh Grant/ Mr. Bean are on one end of the spectrum of what is seen as "being British", and people with turbans certainly is at the other end. By including them in the show it implicitly encompasses everyone else between those two bookends.

 2. Not so clear (and potentially a huge stretch): This is one I pieced together from reading a few articles on The Guardian’s website. So England used to have a program called “The Schools Sports Partnerships” which funded physical activities and exercise for school children, so things like soccer, but not exclusively organized sports. In fact some of the activities include dance classes (similar to how some NY public schools offer ballroom dancing to elementary school kids). It had a budget of £162m and was apparently popular, but it was a victim of recent budget cuts. To help justify being cut the English PM mentioned that while money for kids playing sports is good, he noted some schools were using funds by “doing things like Indian dance or whatever.” 

Okay I understand times are tough for budgets everywhere, but PM Cameron could’ve been a bit more tactful with his wording. With the success of the London games some folks have started to ask for the program to be re-instated.  Now the chairman for the London Organizing Committee for the Olympics Games is a chap named Lord Coe, a former British athlete (and former member of Parliament!) who is basically looked upon now as the person in charge if the legacy of the games…or in other words increasing physical activity amongst kids in Britain. Maybe this includes having kids playing soccer, maybe it just means to encourage kids to get off their bums… who knows. Well, as it turns out Lord Coe’s mother is half-Indian. Having the PM make mock both Indian culture and dance as a form of exercise had to annoy Lord Coe just a wee bit... So fast forward to the closing ceremonies and you see bhangra literally at center stage. So much for “Indian dance” not having a place

So there. Big ups to The Guardian which had the main reading material for this...

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