It was last knockings for Eddie the Eagle as we took our plush seats at Cinema City. The film’s been out for a while and we were two of four in the audience. For those unfamiliar with the story, the film chronicles the flight of Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards who battled against considerable adversity and mean-minded ridicule to compete for Britain as a ski jumper at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. He was the first British competitor in the sport for six decades – hardly surprising given they don’t get much snow in Cheltenham where he grew up. The stuffed shirts of the Olympic establishment loathed him and did their very best to knock him off piste. But the crowd loved the plucky little fella with his jam jar glasses, silly tash and aquiline antics. Everyone likes a trier and try he did. Eddie may not have kept his eyes shut as he chucked himself off the 90 metre ramp, but I did. He came last in both his events. It didn’t matter. A star (or sorts) was born.
I suspect the movie stretched the facts a tad but I was hooked right from the opening scenes as the little boy in callipers dreamed of Olympic glory and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Sheer joy.
With the introduction of a vaguely worded law in Russia banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors (i.e. the very mention of it will attract a sliding scale of fines and repeated violations may result in a stint in the clink), the chattering classes have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea Coast. The idea is to give Tsar Putin and his Russian Orthodox cabal a good kick up the arse. I can’t see it amounting to much. After all, the soccer World Cup circus will be coming to town in Qatar in 2022, a gulf state with a less than sparkling record on human rights of any kind and we seem happy to do brisk business with a host of nasty little regimes around the globe. Let not conscience get in the way of the beautiful game or making a few shillings. The new Russian Law is similar in word and intent to the much-hated Section 28, enacted by the Thatcher Government in 1988 and only abolished in 2003 (now being reintroduced through the back door in some self-governing schools – along with creationism, no doubt). Section 28 was a vicious little side swipe from the Iron Lady’s handbag, tossed in to appease the swivel-eyed loons out in the shires. It was largely ineffectual in the real world and I’m hoping against hope that punitive Putin’s decree will go the same way. But then, Russia isn’t Britain.
So what can be done? I have huge admiration for the two Swedish athletes, Emma Green Tregaro and Moa Hjelmer, who painted their nails the colours of the rainbow while competing at this year’s World Athletics Championship in Moscow. It was a subtle rebuke but still caused quite a brouhaha. Nice one, ladies. How about Winter Olympians displaying the pink triangle (on their nails, a fake tattoo on their hands, whatever)? Personally, I think this would send a more powerful and historically resonant message. The pink triangle was the badge that gay people wore on their ragged uniforms in the death camps before the Nazis herded them into the gas chambers (just as Jews wore the Star of David and other ‘enemies’ of the state had their own emblems). Simple, effective and very televisual. Just a thought.