I’m sure there is a prevailing view in many sections of the London media and commentariat that we are a bunch of provincial yokels up here in the Midlands. It’s a view we ferociously reject here at Representing the Mambo, naturally, our roster of star writers entirely consisting of articulate, charming and sophisticated Brummies, but Christ alive, it is extremely difficult sometimes.
I’m referring here to the local reaction (and it was only here that it caused such a big stir and warranted so much analysis…..) to Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake thanking Birmingham (on two separate occasions now but I’m referring to the one last week) for hosting their pre-race Olympic camp. It was obviously a nice gesture, especially for the people of Birmingham who have welcomed him to our city with such enthusiasm, from my own point of view it was naturally good to hear somewhere other than London mentioned, and Bolt was displaying a sensitivity and thoughtfulness one doesn’t normally come to expect from international celebrities, but from the way that the local media here in Birmingham have responded one would think that the second coming of Jesus Christ had been witnessed in Lee Bank (although I did see a naked guy with a beard there once…actually…… on second thoughts I won’t finish that particular tale…..)
On Friday night it was the headline story on the local news bulletins, especially the BBC’s. Breathless newsreaders gushed at enormous length about the huge significance of Bolt’s essentially throwaway comments and discussed in all seriousness how it could be exploited to help Birmingham’s economy and international profile.
There is a pervasive sense in the local coverage that we all are, and should be eternally grateful that an international superstar is mentioning us in the big city of London. And on the TV! The box that lights up that loads of people have! So millions and millions of people heard our name and know who we are! Double brilliant with knobs on! Fancy us being mentioned by the sophisticates in London Town! They’ve noticed us and acknowledged our existence! Coo! Lucky us!
Whenever anyone from Birmingham visits somewhere else in the world, or, and I’m so excited I can barely even type these words, London, we’ll be internationally recognised as being from that place that Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake mentioned after they won their medals! It’ll now be dead easy to get laid if you say you’re from Birmingham! You know, Usain’s Birmingham!
Our industrial heritage, cultural history and all the other achievements that have made a positive difference to the world are clearly small fry compared to a guy who can run fast for a few seconds mentioning us on national TV a couple of times cos he stayed here for a few days!
Why should we be so thrilled that we have been thrown such an insignificant bone? And why on earth are we so thrilled? Does anyone really think it will have any lasting resonance and effect?
As I suggested at the top of the piece, it all seems very provincial and we’re better than that. Bolt et al should be thanked for their kind words but we don’t need to act like schoolchildren who’ve eaten too many Skittles over a remark that was a pleasant but largely insignificant gesture that will soon be forgotten by everyone outside of Birmingham.