This was supposed to be a rather different blog post, an in-depth and personal probing exploration into whether it is possible to separate corporate sponsorship from the purity of enjoyment of sport in the middle of 3 fenced off big screens in Victoria Park, East London. That post may come, but my material changed very suddenly today when I innocently sought to take a picture of what looked like some garishly dressed, golden-bedecked hairdressers, styling a young girl’s hair to the backdrop of thickly pumping hardcore/trance, and was very quickly with coy and at the same time grandiose gestures, invited up to experience the ‘styling’ of Osadia, a street theatre group based in Barcelona since 1996 striving to push the boundaries of interactive, street entertainment and the extent of participation and ownership in that art through their performances.
Especially in the last few years, I’ve been trying to be more confident and let my inner-American out. We are to a great extent defined by how other people react to us and how we provoke those reactions and I enjoy sometimes exceeding the expectations of the kind of American people think I am. So instead of shrinking into a corner with my plastic bottle of what will remain an unnamed Dutch beer, I decided I was game. What I was game for I didn’t realise until about 20 minutes of styling, a round of applause and a crying child who wanted to know why I had changed so much later. I will admit, along with that brazen American stepping up to the plate or stage as it were, there was wild anxiety, which got slightly wilder with each step this fascinatingly fetishistically dressed performer took, because if you want hair this good, believe me, it is a long and involved process. I thoroughly enjoyed the result though as I became a part of the continuing artwork with various Park-goers striding up to take my picture or have a picture taken with me.
Ah, the price of celebrity. Pictures don’t lie. I felt like someone or something different. Wicker Man crossed with Puck the mischievous fairy via Ziggy Stardust. Alas, I would have loved to have kept the look for longer, but the wonderful and lamentable thing about the carnivalesque is that you can only transcend your identity and the boundaries of it for the duration of the carnival. Leave it and you become a spectacle on a Hackney street, with some awed, some cat-calling, some scoffing, and some speechless.
That was my Olympic experience today. I saw Katie Taylor, from Bray in Ireland, the same town my wife is from, win gold in women’s boxing. And I left Victoria Park, East London, blazing loud green and pink.