Damon Albarn, Mike Leigh and Victoria Wood. Not the first names that spring to mind when you think of sport but they're all in the Olympics. At least, they're in the art world's answer to them, known as the London 2012 Festival, or the Cultural Olympiad, depending on which bit of the Kafka-esque 140-page brochure you get lost in.
The final line-up for the Arty Olympithingy is impressive. What it actually is, though, remains as nebulous as Olympic art commission Column, a tower of mist that was planned for Merseyside before the Civil Aviation Authority realised that it might cause plane crashes.
It appears the London 2012 Festival (which takes place across the UK) is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. This, apparently, has been running since the end of the Beijing Games, which would be a remarkable thing had anyone realised it was happening. Think of how many conversations you've had about your plans for the Olympics over the last few weeks. Then think about how many you've had about the Cultural Olympiad.
There are good points. The line-up is world-class. The UK's finest institutions have upped their game for the Games, from Tate Modern's Damien Hirst blockbuster to Mark Rylance at Shakespeare's Globe. It's a global showcase for our artistic wares and, with 10 million free tickets on offer, a chance to lure in new audiences.
There are also bad points – four years of bickering and cock-ups worthy of the BBC's satire Twenty Twelve, a box-set of which is likely to be the Games' finest cultural "legacy". Some question the logic of spending an additional £100m on "helicopter string quartets" and "dance performances of ancient Mabinogion myths interpreted through the prism of Cardiff nightlife". Expensive flops will only give arts institutions a bad name at a time when they are in direst need of financial and public support.
The main problem, though, is its unwieldy nature, sprawling over 12,000 events, many of which would have taken place anyway but have been pulled into the Olympics' orbit by an ugly logo and some medal-worthy bandwagon-jumping. We don't need a costly Olympiad to prove that our arts scene is in world-beating, champion form.
- More about:
- Civil Aviation Authority
- Damien Hirst
- Mark Rylance
- Olympic Stadium
- Tate Modern