Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: It's Time for a Few Medal-Winning Artistic Wheezes; Details of the London Olympiad Were Announced Yesterday. David Whetstone Explains What It Means for the North East

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: It's Time for a Few Medal-Winning Artistic Wheezes; Details of the London Olympiad Were Announced Yesterday. David Whetstone Explains What It Means for the North East

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone

THE countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games began in earnest yesterday as North East arts and culture figures packed Live Theatre in Newcastle.

No, we won't have actors, writers and artists training for the pole vault or modern pentathlon, fun though that might be.

This was a call for ideas for the Cultural Olympiad, a programme of cultural events to complement all that happens in the various sporting arenas in four years' time.

No doubt there are still plenty of people wondering what the London Olympic Games has to do with the North East.

But the message from Lorna Fulton, who glories in the title Creative Programmer North East, London 2012, is that an opportunity exists and it's up to us to grasp it.

The promise of a Cultural Olympiad apparently impressed the Olympic top brass when Lord (Seb) Coe presented the London bid.

It's a throwback to the original vision of Pierre de Coubertin who revived the Olympic ideal in the late 19th Century.

He envisaged a marriage of sport and the arts and "an arena in which everyone, whatever their talent or skill, is given the opportunity to strive for excellence".

This, in essence, is enshrined in the charter of the International Olympic Committee, although the Ancient Greek custom of awarding medals to poets is about as likely to return as that other Ancient Greek custom of competitors running and wrestling in the buff.

Still, in 2012, arts and culture will have a presence as a potential TV audience of four billion people tunes in to watch 200 countries compete on British soil and in British waters.

Lorna stressed that London's (Britain's) status as host of the Olympic Games 2012 begins not in four years' time but on August 24 when the 2008 Games draw to a close in Beijing and a flag is handed to a representative of this country.

A similar handing over will take place when the Paralympics, also bound for these shores, end on September 17.

Then there will be special launch weekend, September 26-28, when everyone around the country will be encouraged to get involved in Cultural Olympiad events. …

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