Duran Duran and the Bitter Politics of the Olympics

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Duran Duran and the bitter politics of the Olympics
By Suzi Parker
The Olympics often bring out the worst in people.

Or it did on Tuesday, anyway, when it was announced that British pop band Duran Duran would perform at a Hyde Park concert this summer to kick off the 2012 summer games in London.

Duran Duran will represent England in a show that showcases each part of the United Kingdom. Snow Patrol will play for Northern Ireland, Stereophonics for Wales, and Paolo Nutini for Scotland. Not exactly household names, right?

But it’s Duran Duran, which has sold upward of 100 millions records worldwide with hits like “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “Rio,” that took the brunt of insults on Tuesday.

Lucy Jones, a blogger for The Telegraph, called Duran Duran “a bunch of irrelevant rockers who got together in 1978.” She adds, “It makes the closing ceremony with Blur, New Order and The Specials look like Woodstock ‘69.” I’m a music fan, but I have to ask how many average Americans even know those last three bands? Everyone of a certain age has at least bopped along to a Duran Duran song while driving or drinking, hopefully not at the same time.

In the drab 1980s Thatcher era, Duran Duran made England, and British men, look glamorous with their designer suits and glitzy videos of exotic places and beautiful models. Even the late Princess Diana loved the band.

Most people forget that Duran Duran is one of the biggest-selling pop bands from England. This year, they’re on a world tour with their latest album. And the band has the ultimate imprimatur of English cool to their credit: A James Bond theme song with “A View To A Kill.”

Duranies — as the band’s fans are known — went into full defensive mode on Tuesday, tweeting their support for their idols. And Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, who wrote a song in 2008 supporting President Obama, joined in.

From rock stars to politicians, the Olympics, which once strived for international harmony even during wartime, have now become a petty battleground.

Take Mitt Romney. He would probably rather be feeling the heat on the campaign trail than dealing with the monumental task of organizing the Olympics again. Romney was brought in as the CEO to help the struggling Salt Lake City winter games after a bribery scandal nearly derailed the event.

Debate — especially in this election year — still lingers about Romney’s claim that he saved the 2002 Olympics. Critics, calling him an opportunist, said he blatantly used his high profile role in the games to launch a political career. Three weeks after the Olympics’s closing ceremonies, he announced his run Massachusetts governor. Still, the Salt Lake games were a success for a country still reeling from the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

In 2009, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama faced criticism when they traveled to Copenhagen to make a push for the 2016 Olympic Games in Chicago. His foes thought he should stay in the United States and focus on a number of issues including Iran’s nuclear ambitions rather than sports.

“I think it’s baffling that the president has time to travel to Copenhagen,” former Republican Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri said at the time. “[Obama’s] got a lot of responsibilities. His number one responsibility is to keep our country safe.”

The Obamas’ efforts failed. Rio de Janeiro, coincidentally where Duran Duran played this week, was selected for the 2016 games.

No doubt, Michelle Obama’s critics will lob insults as she leads the American delegation to London this summer. But maybe a truce can be called in the spirit of the Olympics. After all, the games were designed to be a time when countries put politics aside in the name of sports.

Duran Duran’s lead singer Simon Le Bon often says, “We are Duran Duran, the band designed to make you party.” Isn’t that the attitude we should adopt going into the summer games and, perhaps, even occasionally during the bitter election season here in the United States?

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.

Courtesy Washington Post