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Imagine no Olympics


John Lennon’s Imagine has made more appearances at the Olympics than most athletes, says Dorian Lynskey in UnHerd. It was played at the summer Games in 1996 and 2012, and at the Winter Olympics in 2006 and 2018. We heard it again in Tokyo this week. It’s strange, because if we took the song’s advice – “Imagine there’s no countries” – it would “theoretically put paid to the whole event”.

Imagine has always had its critics. Elton John joked about the line “imagine no possessions”, sending a card to Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, at their extravagant home in Manhattan that read: “Imagine six apartments/It isn’t hard to do/One is full of fur coats/Another’s full of shoes.” Pop writer Ray Connolly says one of Lennon’s friends, who visited him in New York, sang “imagine no possessions” on seeing the refrigerated row of fur coats. “It was only a bloody song,” replied Lennon huffily.

Indeed. “Somebody said to me, ‘But the Beatles were anti-materialistic’,” Lennon’s former bandmate Paul McCartney told Rolling Stone. “That’s a huge myth. John and I literally used to sit down and say, ‘Now let’s write a swimming pool.’”

Summer sun, something’s begun

We give summer “a mythical quality”, says Luz Sánchez-Mellado in El País. We say goodbye before summer holidays as if we were going to the Antipodes for a year, rather than our in-laws’ apartment for a week. But in a way we go “to the Antipodes of ourselves”. Over summer we are who we’d like to be, “without stress, without haste, without the grip of anxiety squeezing our guts”. It doesn’t last. “We will be back in September, darker, fatter, older.” Until then, happy summer.

A silver lining for the old

Covid has hit the oldest hardest, but that demographic has largely been spared the plague of “pandemic anxiety”, says Patti Waldmeir in the FT. Survey after survey shows that the mental health of the old is in much better shape than that of those younger than them. If you’re retired, you don’t have a job to lose and you probably don’t have any children to home-school. You’ve also lived through so much that you can put the pandemic in perspective. As one 80-year-old tells me: “We’re the World War Two generation, nothing scares us.”