David Lister: If the world's eyes will be on the Olympics, it's time to think big

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It's more difficult to get into the Olympic Park at the moment than it is to get into the country.

The words are not mine, but those of a senior Olympics official who showed me round the park this week. And as I had literally to show my passport to get in, I have to agree. But the private tour was worth it, not just for the sight of the Olympic stadium, velodrome, aquatics centre, athletes' village and all the other buildings that will become familiar next year, but for the art and poetry. Not to forget the floating cinema.

Yes, strange as it may sound, there's already a cultural aspect taking shape at the Olympic Park, and more is to follow before the Games next year. Some of the arts' great and good on the Olympic Delivery Authority – headed by Sarah Weir, its head of cultural strategy and with others such as the Tate's Sir Nicholas Serota on the board – are ensuring that the Olympic Park will have more than its fair share of art.

There will also be assorted large boxes, the size of small pavilions, with poetry written on them. There will even be that floating cinema on the River Lea that runs through the park, seating only a few but getting people talking about film.

I had been a little sceptical about some of the arts festivals and events taking place up and down the country next year under the aegis of the Cultural Olympiad, as I'm not totally convinced by the argument that the eyes of the world will be on Britain's culture. But I am convinced that the eyes of the world will be on the Olympic Park and its various arenas. So if there's anywhere that art and culture should be made manifest, it is on those acres in Stratford, east London.

Then again the more I think about the eyes of the world being on the park next year, the more I think that the interesting has to be replaced by the spectacular, that the readily available but middling names have to be replaced by the best of British present and past. Yes, there is the Anish Kapoor sculpture next to the stadium, but in the main, too many of the artists are local, even though the Olympics are an international event, not an east London one.

Nearly all of the artists, according to the inflationary language of "The Art in the Park" brochure, are "renowned" or "well known", but I'm not convinced that Neville Gabie, Martin Richman, Jason Bruges or Riitta Ikonen are household names. Of course, there should be some of the best of contemporary, cutting-edge work. But, with due respect to some of the up-and-coming artists and poets, shouldn't the eyes of the world also get a Hockney, a Lucian Freud, an Antony Gormley? Couldn't there be an art gallery of great British art, perhaps curated by Sir Nicholas Serota, that audiences around the world could visit via their TV stations between events?

Having art in the park is a fine idea. In a way there's no more important place for it to be next summer. But now those in charge have got to start thinking big. There's still time.

Getty has his eye on the ball

The critics may not have liked Garsington Opera's punkish production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, but I thoroughly enjoyed its fresh and irreverent approach – bicycle, balloons, leather gear, et al. I enjoyed even more visiting the company's new home on the vast Buckinghamshire estate owned by Mark Getty, son of the late Sir Paul Getty and grandson of John Paul Getty. What to look at first – the impressive nautical design of the new opera house or the beautiful grounds with private cricket pitch, pavilion, grass tennis court and lake?

Apparently John Major and Mick Jagger are among those who have been down to watch cricket matches there. And when you go down the mile-long drive to the estate to get to the opera, all Mr Getty's road signs say "Cricket and Opera". He may have welcomed an opera company into his back garden. But he knows where his priorities lie.

Rain stops play but starts the song

There was a diverting exchange on Twitter this week. When the Aegon tennis championship final at Queen's Club had to be postponed on Sunday because of rain, one of the finalists, Andy Murray, tweeted: "Is there anything the players could do to entertain spectators during rain breaks? Interviews? Autograph session? Karaoke would be great!!?"

The actor James Corden, currently starring at the National Theatre, tweeted back: "Dude, get out there and do the rap from autograph!"

With Wimbledon next week, I think the two of them have a point. During rain breaks, on the courts which do not have a roof, players should show us their artistic side. They could rap; they could recite a Shakespeare soliloquy; they could sing an aria; they could do a bit of stand-up comedy.

Too often the arts and sport are seen to be polar opposites. One rain break and a little daring could bring them together.

d.lister@independent.co.uk



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