As you’ll see if you’ve been following #citizenrelay on Twitter or subscribing to this website, we’re already seeing citizen reporters on the streets of Scotland’s villages, towns and cities generating content on the Olympic Torch Relay as we prepare to ‘welcome’ it to the country in a couple of weeks.  We’ve had interviews with Torchbearers in their living rooms, with families and friends in coffee shops or museums and people from across the age spectrum in the most remote parts of Scotland (that’s the Tomintoul audioboo here).  What’s been refreshing about hearing the diverse stories is that they feel a little less staged managed than those I watched on Saturday morning when tuning in to a ‘Torch Relay’ special live from Land’s End.  Admittedly, the official broadcast partner has a difficult role to play in reporting large scale events like the arrival of the Olympic Torch Relay, but I still felt disappointed with the too-easy-to-predict narratives which emerged on Saturday morning.  These were predominantly based around some romanticised (and extremely suspect) notion of the ‘nation’ and the value of the Olympics (and especially the Torch Relay) in unifying the nation.  We heard from the presenters about ‘national pride’ and the Torch Relay providing the nation with a rallying point to soothe the pain of economic and social dislocation.  We were also subject to a line of questioning during interviews about the ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity (for the country and the Torchbearers), of ‘history in the making’ and of the ‘emotional’ nature of participation for Torchbearers due to the sheer scale of the event.  Numerous interviews talked of the heavy responsibility they felt representing their country as they ran.  The 8000 Torchbearers are certainly remarkable people and their sacrifices and personal achievements should not be overlooked (or downgraded).  However, the Torch Relay (and the Olympics) does not generate the same feelings across the country and we need to ensure that people have the chance to tell their own stories without having had their views shaped into a narrative that suits the interests of organisers, sponsors and political leaders.  That’s what we’re looking to achieve with #citizenrelay.

As I watched the flag waving crowds on Saturday morning, I was encouraged by one or two key moments, which appeared to contest the ‘staged’ and ‘securitised’ spectacle that the Torch Relay could become over the next 68 days.  The first of these was Ben Ainslie’s decision (hopefully unscripted) to allow people to get close and touch the torch because he felt the Olympics ‘are about everyone feeling involved’. The second was a comment by a BBC presenter that perhaps people are more excited about the Torch Relay than the Olympics itself because it’s the one event that comes through their communities and allows them a voice.  As we countdown to the Torch Relay coming to Scotland on June 8th, #citizenrelay is determined to ensure you have the opportunity to create the narrative – and I suspect that Day 1’s ‘national pride’ story will be much more nuanced.  Maybe you should interview your families or friends now and see what they think…

 

 



dgmcgillivray has 42 post(s) on Citizen Relay: Tracking the 2012 Torch Around Scotland