London Olympics opening ceremony chimes with greening vision for the CAP

The dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a triumph of discipline, choreography, stagecraft. London will host the games later this summer and it was announced today that the 2012 opening ceremony will take an altogether different, gentler approach. The 2012 Olympics will open with a pastoral representation of the countryside comprising a mixed farm with over a hundred real live farm animals, a flower meadow, rivers, streams, cricket and thatched cottages. In short, the British countryside as it was before intensive agriculture and the common agricultural policy came along.

The organisers of the London Olympics seem very much in line with the European Commission’s thinking on the future of the CAP: agricultural intensification has gone too far, we need to start repairing the damage done to the countryside. Unfortunately, as Alan Matthews has described in some detail, the elected representatives of the European people are doing their best to scupper the Commission’s reform proposals. Greening of the CAP should be optional, not compulsory, says the draft report of the European Parliament’s committee on agriculture.

It’s testament to the durability of the idea of the British rural idyll – in spite of decades of evidence that it’s being steadily destroyed by intensive agriculture – that the 2012 organisers can propose such a theme for the opening ceremony. Despite DDT, BSE, mixomatosis, foot and mouth, the extinction of farmland flora and fauna and nitrates in the rivers, the British people hold firm to the idea of a ‘green and pleasant land’. How long such a romanticised view of the countryside can remain credible depends a great deal on whether the Commission’s proposals, modest though they are, for a more sustainable, ecologically benign agriculture are adopted. As things are, the signs are not encouraging.

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