By Muchiri Waititu
No news is bigger currently than the Olympics news. After four years of wondering what the English could do to top the ‘out of this world’ experience of the Beijing Olympics, the answer was surprising and reassuring in equal measure.
Beijing needed to announce its arrival as a world superpower and had brought out its superstars; high technology, order and ancient history. The opening ceremony showcased the invention of gunpowder and rocket technology and used the backdrop of the Beijing National Stadium dubbed the ‘Bird’s-nest’ to show the world that they were now in the league of superpower states.
To do this, a ceremony full of technological feats was achieved with the now iconic Li Ning flying through the stadium to light the Olympic flame.
London’s answer to Li Ning’s gravity defying feat was very telling. Instead of doing a sci-fi movie, the London games brought in Mr Bean and made us laugh. The organisers played on the strong points of the English, a rich history as the originators of the Magna Carta and the creators of the Industrial age and the Internet.
Just to remind us that London was still inventing stuff and remains relevant, the opening ceremony also showcased its status as a premier cultural centre as well as a melting pot of various cultures. Where else do you get nationals with surnames such as Ofuoma, Jones and Singh flying the same flag (apart from Kenya)?
Buildings, just like the opening ceremony, are an expression of who we are. Together with art, theatre and literature, they tell our story only that they are in brick and mortar and that we actually have to live in them. This is why we take such great pride when we build our own houses.
This is also why whenever we want to show how we are advancing as a nation, we talk about the latest skyscrapers and take visitors on a ride on Thika Super Highway.
The local example to all this is our very own Kasarani Stadium, which was built specifically for the 1987 All African Games. Also built for these games were the Nyayo Stadium Basketball and Handball arenas as well as the swimming pool and the City Park Hockey Pitch. I do not know how much architectural expression went into the projects, but they still serve as great sporting arenas to date.
The greatest legacy of all these great sporting occasions is always going to be the athlete’s village. Long after the flame has been doused and the mursik has been offered at the airport, the villages remain as the most memorable legacy of any games.