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What is the True Legacy of the Olympic Games in Great Britain?

Posted on the 15 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
What is the true legacy of the Olympic Games in Great Britain? The London 2012 logo. Photo credit: Ben Sutherland,

The background

The Olympic Games have finished, leaving Great Britain in a mixture of awe and perplexity. Mo Farah, a Somali immigrant, won hearts and minds with his two gold medals; half-Jamaican Jessica Ennis did the same; the range of people winning medals showed how diverse Britain has become.

So what happens next? Well, there’s the Paralympics to look forward to – and they are seeing a surge in ticket buyers. Meanwhile, commentators muse on what these “Golden Games” have left behind.

Let’s be proud to call ourselves Great Britain

The Telegraph’s View said that Britain had been experiencing a “strange fit of national amnesia.” But now we’ve won all these medals, we know that we “live in a country called Great Britain.” We insist on the “anaemic acronym ‘UK.’” We need to ditch it and “declare what Great Britain believes.” We were right to sign the Olympic charter – in 1896 – as “Great Britain, giving our team this proud banner forever. Enough of the diminutives. Great Britain it should be from now on.”

But how do you transfer sporting prowess into economic gold?

Simon Jenkins (gasp) in The Guardian even agreed with David Cameron, who identified the Olympics’ contribution as “ingenuity, joy, friendship, tolerance, eccentricity, welcome and inspiration.” However, we now need to think about the economy. Cameron wants “competitive spirit and volunteering” to “change the country for good.” But what does this mean? There’s no causal reason why “Los Angeles and Barcelon rose and Sydney and Athens fell after their Games.” And how to transfer sporting skills to business? The one thing that we can deploy is our eccentricity and ingenuity. What about the profit that Lord Coe promised to taxpayers from the Olympics? Perhaps we should inject it into people’s bank balances. That would boost the high street – and “keep that Olympic smile on every face.”

Cameron must be bold

We’re still a “global player”, said Ian Birrell in The Independent. We showed “the real face of our rainbow nation to the world.” Now we hae to return to the “painful reality of a country engulfed in economic gloom.” Cracks in the Coalition grow wider; the Liberal Democrats and the Tories aren’t helping. There’ll be a reshuffle, of course; and the Coalition can’t afford to downplay the Labour party. These Games should inspire Cameron to “be bold and true to himself by returning to the themse of the Big Society.” He should focus on the economy, the young, the need for housing, and make sure the welfare state focuses on people in need.

The true legacy is tolerance

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writing, uncharacteristically, in The Daily Mail, said that Mo Farah had made a huge change to our idea of Britishness. He was born in Somalia, and came to London when eight; Mo “extols his adopted country.” When asked if he’d rather represent Somalia, he said: “ ‘Not at all, mate. This is my country.’” He embraced Britishness, arouding pride in people hitherto “wary of nationalistic celebrations.” But these Games are “a watershed of true significance.” Like many other migrants, Alibhai-Brown threw herself “into the warm pool of belonging.” And this should be “the true legacy of this unforgettable celebration of human achievement: pride has beaten prejudice. And as a nation, we are all the stronger for that.”

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