There is a starkly, contrasting, parallel between the riots that rocked and shocked the nation last summer, and the superb performances of our competitors at London 2012. During the Olympics we have seen dozens of inspired, young people in Team GB who have shown the motivation to work hard to achieve pride and glory for the nation they represent. Last year we saw hundreds of ignorant, young people from that same nation feeling devoid of prospects and disenfranchised with the wider society, rampage throughout their towns and cities in a destructive free for all. If rioting had’ve been an Olympic sport we may have had a chance of even more medal glory! But how can these two groups of people be so different in their beliefs, dreams and ideals?
Whilst the Olympics and the riots seem diametrically opposed, as a nation we are, as Cameron says, “All in this together”, so whether we like it or not, our hooligans are just as much a part of ‘Team GB’ as our Olympians. But can this huge contrast in attitudes to life provide some rationale to the actions of those young people who ran amok last summer – one of whom was actually an Olympic ambassador and another an Olympian in training?
The nation is on a high after the Olympics and nobody wants to be negative about the event. I know the media agencies and corporate sponsors have spent millions to protect their asset and have carefully controlled the public image of the games, but still, I must confess that I have felt uncharacteristically patriotic. This has been partly due to the fact that it’s on home soil and Team GB have done so well, but also because of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony. Only a Northerner would have the gall to direct a London Olympic ceremony in front of a Conservative Prime Minister and the Royal Family and create a centrepiece based around the Industrial Revolution of the North and the Labour inspired National Health Service – all performed by a colourful, multi-cultured cast – cheeky! But Team GB’s medals haven’t come cheap. Aside from the individuals’ efforts, it has required the concerted effort and conviction of the state along with billions in tax-payer’s money to achieve that success. No expense has been spared to make London 2012 the greatest show on earth. So what would happen if that expense and committed effort was put into the education and social development of all our young people? What more could we achieve and just how great would that legacy be?
Lord Moynihan said that it was “wholly unacceptable” that 50 percent of Britain’s medal winners in Beijing came from private schools, yet only 7 percent of the nations pupils go to independent schools. Although that figure was much improved in London, once the media put it out there the political parasites picked up the scent and immediately called for more funding and better facilities in schools so that we can produce successful sportsmen and women from wider and more diverse backgrounds. What an asinine, selfish and narrow-minded view. Surely the legacy and inspiration from such an iconic and expensive, global spectacle, should aim further than just developing athletes?
When you consider the contrasting parallels between the events in London last summer and this year’s Olympic triumph, the legacy of the games should go further than the development of athletic poster boys and girls to garnish the nations public image. The self-aggrandisement of those in government who have lapped up the positive publicity from the games seems to have blinded them to the bigger picture and grander vision? If well resourced, quality education can find and develop the best-of-the-best in the field of sport to represent Britain at our Olympics, then surely that philosophy can work to discover and develop all the latent talent in our young people?
In the last 12 years since the turn of the millennium our country has spent over a trillion pounds on expensive luxuries like the Millennium Dome, Wembley Stadium, relocating the BBC, bank bailouts and the Olympic games. When you follow the news and the media it’s easy to forget the important stories of just a few years ago and thus fail to put the circumstances and stories of today in correct perspective. It will be some time before we find out who reaps the rewards of London 2012, but whilst we are in the middle of a crippling, global recession, when you look back over the last 12 years and consider the profligate spending of our government, it is enough to make you buckle at the knees.
The national and political hubris gained from the success of our games will last for a short while. From the opening ceremony onwards, it was a games that showed the best of the British public. Our multicultured volunteers and our cast of competitors delivered us the pride and the glory that the behaviour of our politicians, bankers and those bigoted, racist detractors in the BNP and EDF never could. But not long after the firework smoke has settled, the reality of life and the real state of the nation will resurface, and no amount of running, jumping, swimming, rowing or riding will change that. But if our leaders put half as much of the effort that our Olympians have put into their performances into making our education system better, then the future might be brighter – and for a whole lot longer. If our leaders put the same concerted effort into making our society work as they did this Olympics, then the whole of the nation may be able to truly share in the pride and joy the games. If the rest of us put as much effort into raising our young and maintaining positive communities, then we might just be able to come together and force change for the better. We have produced an impressive list of inspirational Olympic stars – Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Laura Trott, Anthony Joshua, Andy Murray, Ben Ainslee, Sir Chris Hoy, the Brownlee brothers – all of our competitors in all their shapes, sizes, colours and creeds – in their success they are all Team GB. Made in Britain. And so from the rioters to the victors and everyone in between, we are all team GB and we are all in this together.