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London Olympics have redefined how we see ourselves and presented big opportunities for change

Posted on 12 August 2012 | 5:08am

Here is a piece CNN asked for on what I think will be the long term significance of the Olympics in London 2012.

I always thought London 2012 would be a success but never imagined it would be quite the triumph it has turned out to be. From the brilliant opening ceremony to the festival of music and fun closing it, via mainly lovely weather, some epoch making athletic events, and a home team performance that exceeded even the most optimistic expectations, the Games have given London two of the most remarkable weeks in a great City’s rich history.
 
The question now is where it all goes from here. Do we look back, as the Australians and the Greeks have done after Sydney and Athens, and say ‘well that was wonderful, but it kind of went all downhill from there?’ Australia’s relatively poor performance on the field of play suggests they didn’t get the legacy right from Sydney – one of the key challenges for London now – whilst the Greeks, at the epicentre of the eurozone crises, remind us the attention of the world will quickly revert to the state of the global economy.
 
I remember on leaving Athens eight years ago, hearing both public and politicians say this was the starting point for a new and better Greece. A lot has gone wrong since. Even as the Brits were celebrating more Gold, Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King was giving one of the gloomiest gubernatorial assessments of the future I have ever heard. And we all know that after a party as fantastic as the one we have had, there is bound to be a hangover to come during the lull before the Paralympics open.
 
For the politicians, who have to lead the country through difficult times, capturing the Olympic mood and turning it into something of positive and lasting significance has now been added to their list of challenges.
 
Politics, banking, the media and the Church are among many parts of national life that have seen their reputations lower in recent years. It has felt at times in the past fortnight  that sport is filling some of the gap. If politicians try too hard to associate themselves with the goldrush, it could easily backfire. They  will find it hard to resist demands for more investment in school sport, or tax breaks for sporting clubs and activities, and any number of campaigns backed by a small army of new heroes, and I hope they take up an idea I proposed some months ago to raise Sport to the Cabinet table, not least for the economic and social opportunities it brings. Yet equally, once life settles back down to something closer to normality, they will find the same pressures from other walks of life too, and the same frighteningly difficult economic sums to add up. But they do have to make decisions and they do now, finally, have to seize the opportunity for a proper sports strategy to build on the success of the Games and the joy and fulfillment sport has shown it can bring. I had a call today from an athletics club organizer saying he had been inundated by kids and parents wanting to join, but worried he didn’t have the capacity to give them what they thought they would be getting.
 
But nor should the anti politics brigade underestimate the role that politics played both in the getting and running of the Games, and in the success of Team GB. Success has many fathers and President Truman was so right when he said how much more could be achieved if nobody cared who got the credit. But whilst huge credit has rightly gone to LOCOG chairman Seb Coe and his team, John Major’s government does deserve credit for setting up the National Lottery which enabled proper investment in elite sport. Tony Blair’s government does deserve credit for increased investment and school sports partnerships (which the current government was so wrong to cut) and Mr Blair deserves huge credit for the diplomatic skills he used which swung the last few votes for London against Paris to land the Games. Politicians of all parties deserve credit for ensuring that handovers of power both at government and Mayoral level have taken place without the stability and success of this enormous project being put at risk.
 
During the opening ceremony, I tweeted that ‘Danny Boyle is explaining the Big Society to David Cameron’ – ok, a bit of a cheap shot. But for me the genius of the ceremony lay in capturing not just the greatness of our past, but the insight that provided we recognise we are now a very different country to what we were, we have the chance for a great future too. Fast forward several days to the greatest night of all when in less than an hour, a black Somali asylum seeker, a mixed race northerner and a tall good looking ginger man won athletics Golds and you could almost hear the nation saying ‘this is who we are.’
 
That was a feeling that came back to me time and again as I travelled around the Games and the key to that were the 70,000 Games Maker volunteers. A boon in volunteering has to be one of the key parts of the legacy.
 
The problem with the Big Society was not the idea but its execution. Danny Boyle did give a more coherent vision of it than the politicians have done, and The Games gave a sense of what it could mean in practice. Government setting bold ambitions and finding the team from public and private sector to deliver on them. Liberating people with expertise to deliver on the specific goals for their part of the project. Harnessing the energy and support of businesses and people to make it happen. 
 
It has already led to cultural change and we will see soon enough – with the start of the football season – if it has any chance of enduring. I have exited hundreds of stadia in my time. But the atmosphere coming out of the Olympic Park in these last few days has been like no atmosphere I have ever experienced before.

The first thing you notice is how clean everything is. Cans, bottles, litter – they seem to be in bins, not chucked to the ground. There are also fewer police officers than you usually see leaving a big event. People talk on the tube to strangers.

The volunteers have been the key to all this. They are everywhere. And they are nice. And they are just having a good time helping others to have a good time.

There is such a positivity to these Games that comes not just from sporting success but the scale of the project and the fact Britain pulled it off; the superb venues and the smoothness of the movement of big crowds through them; the transport system working well; the phenomenal support the British public have given at every single venue.

But right up there is the role of the Games Makers: Mr and Mrs Britain. These are the real Middle Englanders, and they are the antithesis of the negativity of those newspapers which claim to be the voice of the British people.

That same positivity is the reason London Mayor Boris Johnson emerged as one of the political winners of the Games. When so many people and media were talking down the prospects of things going well, he talked them up.
 
By contrast, the government has not managed to tap into the new mood that is so much a part of why these Games have been such a success. David Cameron sought to become Prime Minister on the back of a message about ‘Broken Britain.’ His health secretary Andrew Lansley talks down the NHS as a way of justifying reforms that were not voted for and appear unwanted by many who run the service. Education Secretary Michael Gove is more at ease criticizing teachers and pupils and talking down success than he is in building it up.
 
A year ago, amid the London riots, people were entitled to wonder if Mr Cameron had a point about Broken Britain. But anyone who has been touched by these Games knows that Britain is anything but broken, that the best of British can in its own way compete with anywhere in the world. We have shown it in sport. But just think to some of the cultural icons on display at both ends of the Games, from Dizzie Rascal to Tim Berners Lee and it is clear we show it there too.
 
In their own way, I think these Olympics could be one of the most significant events of our lifetime. They are changing the way British people think about themselves and about their country. We have shown we can do big things well. We have shown we can succeed at anything we set our minds to. We have changed the way many overseas think about us.
 
The challenge for the media, as Lord Justice Leveson deliberates on their future, is to understand this rejection of relentless negativity and Cowellesque faux celebrity is real. The challenge for the politicians is to understand that they too must cut back on the ‘everything is terrible’ narrative, set clear directions and be strategic about how they meet them. David Cameron’s rushed out statement on school and elite sport over the weekend, when what is needed is a thought through long-term big scale plan, was not a good start. But we have seen a new mood emerge. The hope now is it can lead to a new media and a new politics too. In addition to the millions being inspired to get more active, that would be quite a legacy.

  • Dan Slipper

    Clear, intelligent thinking which is in tune with the public mood.  Excellent as always.

  • Sarah Dodds

    I hate the way this government STILL blame Labour. I am convinced that if the stadiums had not been delivered on time etc etc then Dave would have said it was all down  to that dam Labour legacy….
    And seeing as we take so much of the blame from them, any chance of them giving the previous governments a pat on the back for the clearly excellent work that went on before the Coalition stepped in? NO.
    Interesting you talk about the Big Society. The reason it has worked so well here is that it was volunteering for a short term spectacular where there were no existing workers. People found it relatively easy to commit – the people I know who have done it have used it as a summer holiday with annual leave. Additionally, they would have to have very good financial reserves or be prepared to go into debt to fund the accommodation costs which all of the volunteers have had to meet ( at vastly inflated prices.) I will be interested to know the socio – economic mix of the volunteers – I am sure that this will have been a project out of reach to many who would have loved to have done it. However, I sound like I am having a whinge when I don’t want to knock the Olympics at all – it has been a total joy.
    Where I am prepared to whinge is over the Big Society.
     The reason the Games Maker project will not work on a wider scale is that most people just don’t have the time to make a really long term commitment. I know loads of people who do football training for kids, who are chairing regeneration projects, who are building community gardens. All of them are doing a fantastic job and are admirable. But what they have in common is that the projects came from their own passion, drive and commitment. Passionate people like this can, and do, deliver great things. Yes, they need central and local government to make it easier, but these projects will not deliver the type of public services we need in the long term.
    We have the scandal in Lincolnshire at the moment of  library staff who are training the volunteers who are taking over the running of the libraries while the staff are being made redundant. We have all but one of our local rural ambulance stations threatened with closure. Away from the Olympics, the Big Society is being seen as an almighty austerity con-trick.
    What we need is a clear message from the Government about what is not prepared to be harnessed off to volunteers. The Big Society has been around for generations despite claims that it is new. What I want to hear from Labour is where it is going to draw lines in the sand. It is clear that more or less anything goes with this government, but will Labour make a stand for the public services that most people want to see remain in professional hands?

    • Dave Simons

       Thanks Sarah – that was lovely to wake up to! You certainly can’t run library services on volunteers but unfortunately some of the professionals running libraries are so cash-strapped that they are being forced to consider it.

    • reaguns

      If only there were rules about this, but both parties blame previous governments and external factors for anything that goes wrong, but claim personal credit for anything that goes right.

      Labour blame the ‘global’ financial crisis for their mishandling of the economy, the Tories blame the Eurozone and labour for their mishandling of the economy.

      So yes I will expect the Tories to claim olympics success is down to them, just as I would have expected them to blame the legacy from labour had they been a disaster.

      The exact same thing happens in america. The one good thing is that we had the lefties in charge here and the right in charge in america suring the crisis, and switched round to the opposite afterwards. So you find lefties like to claim that George Bush was responsible for the financial problems in US, but Gordon Brown wasn’t here! Likewise right wingers like to pretend that they are doing something different than Barack Obama is, when there is a cigaretter paper between what the democrats and the tories are doing.

      I think the rule should be you get 2 years, in the first two years you can blame the previous lot, after that you carry the can. Reagan inherited disaster in 1980, had a brutal recession in 1981, had a fantastic booming economy in 1982. (And therefore got re-elected in a 49 stated landslide in 1984.) That should be the benchmark.

  • David Cameron lectures us about the “Big Society” because he doesn’t realise that we already are a big society full of generosity of spirit towards each other. He doesn’t realise this because Cameron himself lives in a very small society which is cynical, negative and mean. Cameron and his friends cannot see beyond or outside their own small society and assume that the rest of us live as they do.

    We get glimpses of the small society of David Cameron & Co. when we see his friends from News International going to court, or when we see his close friend Osborne abusing parliament to slander another politician with a total fabrication.

    Cameron’s small society is totally at odds with the ideals of the Olympics and he will not be able to capitalise on them simply because his inability to be anything other than a cynical opportunist and a manipulator  show at every point.

    The picture of him watching the games with his “Team GB” shirt is so staged, so obviously fake. All we get from looking at that picture is a measure of the contempt he must have for the people of the UK when he believes they will be convinced by such an obvious mock up.

  • ZintinW4

    The Games have enabled us to be proud of Britain again. I was never a ‘Rule Britannia’ type and have always been wary of us defining ourselves by our imperial past.

    On the other hand the Olympics have enabled us to redefine ourselves. Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony started this by managing to show our past against the present. A present where we are inclusive, funny and pretty cool.

    Then, in sport, we showed our new image again. It’s fitting that Mo Farrah and Jessica Ennis have had massive support. Also appropriate that women have dominated the medals haul, showing another aspect of the emerging society we are.

    Finally there is something amazing about the Paralympics being virtually sold out. It builds on a consensus of inclusivity and pride.

    Of course there’s still work to do. Too often prejudice and bigotry interfere. Too often our media influence opinion to mould a view that difference is something to be feared not embraced. Yet last night, in Hyde Park, London was one city, screaming for Mo, celebrating all that is good.

    The best thing about London 2012 is that it has shown us as a nation at our very best. That’s why I am so proud. We may not be the richest nation in the world, or the most powerful. Yet we’ve found our new place as a totem of inclusivity, cool and confident

    • Mabozza Ritchie

      Well said. I was pleased to hear Seb say he is focused now on making the Paralympics as big a success. I really hope the Royals, politicians and celebs will be as prominent, but I’m not too confident. 

  • Richard Jones

    Spot on Alistair. Thanks for summing things up so clearly.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Spirit of common good.
    According to the Daily Telegraph Olympic legacy would be perfect if we can revive this spirit of common good.
    But the same paper says that David Cameron will give more power to the Tory Right in reshuffle.
    And in the final analysis, everything comes down to the state of economy.
    For 30 years after the WW2 the gap between rich and poor was narrowing. Relative deprivation was declining.
    It was expected that the poor would get their share of the economic growth.
    All political parties wanted to eliminate inequality.
    But the gap between rich and poor is widening today.
    Wages at the bottom have remained stagnant.
    Globalisation is not the only villain. Wealth is not trickling down as neoliberals promised.
    Inequality has risen regardless of which party has been in power.
    And now we have a rule of the few.
    Even in 1946 George Orwell detected concentration of industrial and financial power and diminishing importance of individual capitalist or shareholder.
    Policymakers have let corporate governance go slack.
    Labour and the Tories pretended that inequality did not matter.
    We need a new political economy based on fairness.
    And no amount of quantitative easing or low interest rates will help unless there is CONFIDENCE in business sector and households.
    Social market economies of Germany/Scandinavia are doing better than those using the Anglo-Saxon model.
    But neither a Keynesian or neoclassical theory is perferct.
    Stimulus packages must include the creation of new institutions.
    We must generate value, not debt.
    Bank of England lost the control over inflation.
    Economy has been delivering only to the super-rich.
    Bankers are getting their bonuses. Government is making cuts in public spending while cutting corporate taxes.
    Living standards of low- and middle-incomes families are squeezed.
    David Cameron has promised ten more years of austerity: low growth, high unemployment and deteriorating public services.
    A collapse of the eurozone will make all this ten times more difficult.
    Cameron´s government is failing on every front.
    Next time Mr Osborne compares Britain to Greece, he will be telling the truth…
    .

  • There are national rankings other than those by number of olympic medals won, for example the tables produced by PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment). Look at the 2009 tables – a familiar flag at Number 1, and the UK (and the USA) way down. Not exactly “the best of British” competing with anywhere in the world.  There is a danger of the “legacy” debate being far too self-congratulatory and complacent for our own good.

    • reaguns

      Not really much danger of that. The sporting achievements were incredible whatever way you look at it.

      There are the small plucky nations who win a couple of medals and so on, but Britain is a medium sized country who has challenged the superpowers, getting respectfully close to USA and China, and beating Russia!

      As with all things, we should compare how Britain does versus similar nations, the most appropriate ones always being France and Germany, ie similar population, location and wealth – and Britain buried them.

      I must admit if all the medals had came from rowing, cycling, sailing and the like I would have dismissed this as being the egg & spoon champions. But when you win the Long Jump, the Tennis, 5000m, 10000m and the Super Heavyweight Boxing titles, no one can argue.

      The heavyweight champions of these games were America, and I was glad to see them beat the communists in whatever guise, but the pound for pound champions were Team GB.

  • Isn’t it wonderful to see what great volunteers and athletes our schools- of all kinds – produce? The challenge is how to increase the proportion of youngsters taking an active part in at least one of sport, music, drama, volunteering. Amongst the largely great young population is hardcore minority of negative lazy sloths. Hopefully – but don’t bank on it – these people will see what joy the work ethic can bring.
    On the BBC this monring the (rather dismal) interviewer informed David Cameron that it was the age group 16-24 in which sports particiation has fallen (and is still falling). Cameron replied by exhorting schools to do more – unless the school leaving age is to be drastically raised he completely misunderstands. Never has so much tosh been spoken so pleasantly.

  • Tebbit Wing Tory

    Another example of Alistair Campbell’s unique, some my say odd view of the world.

    “The Games are good. The Volunteers are good people”. Both vintage A
    C statements, in which brusque certitudes are presented as facts., it was ever thus. “Labour Good, Tories Bad. Bog St Comp Good, Eton Bad, NHS Good, Private Bad, Daily Mirror Good, Paul Dacre Bad”.. It is a world view distorted not so much by conviction (nothing wrong with that), but by an overweening, oft unchallenged ego which says “I am right, let’s have fisticuffs if you disagree with me”.

    Personally I found many of the Olympics volunteers to be cloying do gooders, but I may not be in the majority with that view.

    • Ehtch

      “fisticuffs”? I’ll hold Alastair’s coat. And I’ll bring a bucket and sponge too.

      And go to your average sporting club Tebbit WT, and you will find it full of your so called “cloying do gooders”. I sense a large proportion helping out there at the Olympics are these such people. But I unadvise you to say that out loud to them, otherwise you will get your ears boxed in.

  • reaguns

    Excellent stuff.

    One point I want to make is to note how quiet the would-be strikers and their mouthpieces have gone. Imagine how reviled they would be if they ruined a single day of this olympics.

  • Dave Simons

     Judging by your pseudonym you could probably eat Alastair for breakfast.

  • Ehtch

    That tory MP’s comments on the opening ceremony now looks silly, doesn’t it? It is obvious he does not know what sort of country he is an MP in, it now looks, judging what he said.

    And Cameron has shamelessly used and abused the Olympics for his own personal political use, hasn’t he? He has been like a jack in the box popping up in the suitable places for such. Even today he had Mo and others next to him outside no.10 as a cheap photo op. Yes Alastair, hope it does blow up in his face, when the torys default setting is reset.

    With recent past games, Oz’s whinge is their better coaches have been flighted away to other countries on lucrative contracts, with GB being one customer, with help of the £1 lottery.

    And with Athens and Greece, it seems obvious now that their games, amongst other things, were built on sand, and the whole country is now sinking.

    Going further back with Barcelona and Spain, the white elephants their country are building up quite an unenviable reputation – there is even a whole modern airport in the country gathering dust, totally unused.

    And finally, Gove has got to do some spinning u-turns if he wants to catch the mood of the nation. Why in heck Cameron hasn’t had his “night of the long knives” yet is baffling, what with the pants performance by quite a few of his ministers.

  • reaguns
  • alienfromzog

    A mixed-race woman, an asylum seeker and a ginger walk into a bar… and everyone buys them a drink.

  • simon

    For AC to complain about people ‘talking things down’ is almost beyond belief. 

  • Anonymous

    Furthermore, loved Cathy Dennis’ version of Waterloo Sunset from a couple decades ago, tidy hot lady,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVs5Lx_kFJE

    Cathy wrote Kylie’s “Can’t get you ‘outta’ my Head”, by the way, for those uneducated…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c18441Eh_WE

    Yes, Kylie bach, mam from Maesteg, South Wales, don’t you not know?!?

    Ignorance is everywhere! : )

  • Anonymous

    BIGG WHOOPPS – lack of lateral thinking there by the organisers, not having a huge fan at the side so we would see fluttering marathon top thre flags – and I am old enough to remember John Aki-bua in the 400m hurdles from 1972 for Uganda then, Amin the bonkers man and all that, claiming to be the last king of Scotland, of all places : ) , and all that.
    John clip here from 1972,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBt4_j3BlgE

    Inredible marathon run today, Tiki lad.

  • Anonymous

    More little boots from Blackpool. which I am told Chris from Pet Shop Boys also Blackpool quite likes, always like the PSB, musically, excellent tinned carrots – could be a background vid for Chris here with this.

    Victoria Hesketh, in another name,
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJM68s5UAis

    it’s alright, isn’t it. Always ready to help other baters in life, even if I am a front end sniffer, prowling like George’s from kenya Boy, I tell them. I used to attract them, and those various mates took over, when chatters were left down on when told that I feed coal into the front room fireplace, not the back one.

    : )))

  • Anonymous

    Alastair, hope you approve all my comments tonight. I have tried to be quite balanced tonight.

    But I give you permission not to post this. as if that will make a difference…

    : )

  • Ehtch

    yes Sid Waddell, Alastair, didna ko hre had been hitting single three these last months, yorkshire dartboard or not mun!

    ce’la vie my friend, that is an out as good as jesus christ on any cross…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EofI4pg_8n8

    Get yer gums arund mee plums, tha wis a game shot tha eva seen, frind.

  • Anonymous

    Alastair,

    it has turned out alright.

    We all did OK, as 90% knew.

    The other 10% were running around in Eton circles, it coming up. Not knowing if it will be last year firelighting London storm or not.

    But it wasn’t, as you and me Alastair told them constantly.

    Again, we will have to meet up one day, Alastair, just to pass the time of day, of course.

    Let you know, when I spot you are not manting travelling, and I am coming up to the smoke, I will arrange, yes, a come together. Are you frightened of a Carmarthenshire welshman? you should be… : )

    Like Taylor Ware from the US in Switzerland? Yes, sort off, make the connection, yes? Ja?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGhgVO6PG7o

    Alastair, might as well get it over with, you scottish miserable yint.

  • mightymark

     Celebrating Labour’s not inconsiderable lagacy – including the Olympics – would be much easier if many LABOUR people dropped their insane hatred of Tony Blair.

  • Michele

     I don’t imagine many people take much notice of the rankings.  Landlocked countries have little likelihood of competing in most of the sailing competitions so when early days have a predominance of boating events’ awards they would naturally not appear highly-placed.

    Perhaps a more-true version of ranking (if ranking matters at all) would be around how many of a nation’s participating sports they did well in.

  • Ehtch

    Last nights wotsits, the live appearances by various was lame. Rubbish in fact.

    Beatles was the best, and Eric Idle, but the rest was shite, totally.

  • Ehtch

    Paralympics? mmm. Big mmmmm.

    Sorry Alastair, still don’t get the mentality behind it, never have.

    Some have called it some sort of freak circus show, as toured nineteenth century US of A and Victorian Britain.

    Something about it is perverse. Seeing wheelchairs whistling by at thirty miles an hour? Nope, still don’t get it.

    Apologies all.

  • Anonymous

    Nice Disqus upgrade, some new bells and whistles. But took me quite a few seconds to find where to log on, until I clicked on that wheel thing at the top.
    Quite quiet today – but footie and rugger season soon, to help the cold turkey out! Cricket has been all over the place this season, what with all this ruddy rain. One minute your sweating your cobs off, then it tips down. Bonkers summer, and the arctic ice cap is well melted too, this summer. Storm surges will be high this autumn. Floods no doubt on coast.

  • Mark Wright

    A day before the Olympics I could not have cared less about The Games. Not being a sports fan I felt it would simply wash over me. I didn’t begrudge the joy others would have watching and enjoying it, but for me it was a non-event.
    Two things happened.
    Firstly: Danny Boyle. Or to be more precise, the phone call that Danny Boyle had made to The Palace asking if the Queen would consider being in a skit with James Bond which would culminate in her parachuting out of an aeroplane during the Opening Ceremony. Unprecendented, hilarious and utterly, utterly brilliant. The Royal Family have come a long way since the dark days of 1997.
    Secondly: The GB women’s volleyball team. Flicking through the myriad of new HD Olympic channels I started watching their match with Algeria. I had no knowledge of women’s volleyball, where GB stand in the rankings and what their prospects were for a medal. It seemed a pretty even match. After 5 minutes or so the commentator stated that to even win a *set* in an Olympic Games would be a major achievement. Wow. We were close to doing to just that. Which we did. And then we won another. And then the match. By the the time it finished I realised it 12.40am. What right had I, in the face of such dedication and achievement, to be cynical? None.
    Throughout the following days I seemed to gravitate away from endlessly watching the news channels, which themselves had started to slowly move away from the endless cycle of doom and depression, and started to then flick through the Olympic channels. The coverage was joyous. Positive. Engaging. Inspiring.
    Something was clearly happening. It could be felt. It was real. It was needed. It was what I needed.
    Did I really now want to look back in 10, 20, 30 years and say that when the Games came to my country I couldn’t be bothered to make the 90 minute journey to go and support Team GB?
    Last Friday was the only day I could realistically get to the Games. With tickets long since unavailable I just kept trying. And trying. And trying.
    But luck was on my side. The price of the ticket? Irrelevent. But I was 15 rows from the track so that’ll give you an idea of how much my Visa card was hammered.
    But what price, eh?
    So let me say this…
    From the first point of Olympic contact at Haywards Heath station in Sussex, to the endless lines of smiling, witty, positive, embracing volunteers welcoming me to The Olympics, to the troops assisting with the smoothest security proceedure I have ever experienced, to the architects who designed such a beautiful stadium and Olympic Park that it brought a tear to my eye when I first saw it, to the volunteer who came up to me as I was trying to figure out where to get some food as I was looking at my map to ask if I needed any help, to Stadium announcer who whipped the crowd up into a frenzy for the pole vaulters, to the privilege of sharing the tears of gold medal winners, to the hilarious volunteer who reminded us that the interminably long walk back to West Ham tube at the end of the night was simply the first step to us living out Seb Coe’s Olympic vision by getting fit and becoming even better people I say thank you. Thank you all.
    I never undertsood the importance of sport in our society or the overwhelmingly positive influence it can have on the human psyche of not just the competitors but spectators alike.
    I can now say without hesitation ‘I get it’.
    THIS is the Big Society.
    And it comes about not by beating people down but lifting them up. Not by cutting back but by nuturing and sustaining those early flickers of ambition and hope. It comes about by saying ‘yes’ not ‘no’. Yes.
    The Olympics has proved that given the right encouragement, the right framework, the right investment we, as a nation, in whatever walk of life, can exceed our expectations not only of ourselves but of each other.
    This is how I feel right now, today. This not how I was feeling 3 weeks ago. I have the London Olympic Games of 2012 to thank for that. Let’s see if we can figure out a way to carry this flame with us on the road ahead.
    Now, let me get back to my computer. I need to keep checking to see when those Paralympic tickets are being released…

  • Gilliebc

    I’m not sure I like this Disqus upgrade tbh, Ehtch. There are some very strange statistics filed under the ‘Community’ section. For example you, me and reaguns and others are listed as the most active. No surprise there. But others such as Michele, who is a prolific poster, is not listed. Neither are Olli, Dave S, Richard and others who we all know are regular posters. I assume they comment through the Disqus vehicle because I’ve viewed their Disqus pages from time to time. Maybe those I’ve mentioned have chosen some sort of privacy setting on Disqus, so that their activity is not collected or registered in the statistics?

  • Gilliebc

    A couple of other things I don’t like about this upgrade is that there no longer appears to be the facility to edit a comment, once posted. Also, it is no longer possible to veiw exactly who gave the ‘likes’ to any post as was possible before the ‘upgrade’. In short, I can’t see any benefits to the upgrade. But, there are obvious losses.

  • Gilliebc

    Whoops, I see the edit facility is still available. I’ll stop grumbling now and get on with some work!

  • Michele

    ‘Some have called it some sort of freak circus show …..’.
    Why repeat it unless exploiting some sort of ‘T’weren’t me wot used it gov’?

    However, you did use ‘perverse’, just don’t bother apologising :-s

  • Michele

    Tessa Jowell has just summed up the numbers; in the end £9.3Bn for the infrastructure and £2Bn for running the Games.

    I reckon she’s the most reliable person around (and one of the most gracious politicos).

  • Michele

    Perhaps I don’t show as prolific because I’m not prolific.

  • Gilliebc

    Ehtch, when I first read this comment of yours regarding the paralympics, I thought OMG the pc brigade are going to be on to this one like a ton of bricks.
    I wouldn’t bother to go and watch them either, anymore than I’d bother to go and watch the able-bodied Games.
    But, I think you’re missing the point. Surely it’s a good thing that the less able-bodied people can participate in some sort of sporting competition, if they want to. It must be a great boost to their self-esteem and all round general physical and mental health to be able to do something like that. Let’s face it, any of us able-bodied people could finish-up in a wheelchair at any time, because of an accident or illness. Or, be blinded for whatever reason. Or, numerous other unfortunate occurences that life deals out in a seemingly ad hock basis.
    I don’t think the paralympics is a ‘freak’ show. It’s about people achieving things, sometimes against all the odds. Regulars to this site know you’re not an unkind person Ehtch. But I don’t believe you really thought this one through properly before commenting. As someone who has done similar in the past, i.e. commented without thinking it through properly, I can empathize with you to a certain extent. But these paralympics aren’t about entertaining the masses. They are about people doing what they can and then some.

  • Anonymous

    Most probably they post as a guest, and have not registered with Disqus. Only registered and merged my previous comments a few months back myself – it certainly was worth it, especially for checking for replies by looking at the dashboard (or whatever it is now).
    As with all upgrades, takes a little while to familiarise oneself. And also, usually, Disqus will do some tinkering on any complaints in the coming weeks.
    I think the main reason for the upgrade is to be more suitable for other platfroms more than anything – tablet and all that. But it does look sleeker now. And also perhaps they have done something to that justification bug when there are several layers of replies, where a reply eventually ends up one letter wide.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, was a bit, umm, “Alf Garnett” there. It’s just I think it has been commercialised as well, I think the point I was trying to make, tongue in cheek, but I was too over the top sledge hammer there. Apologies all the same.
    But I always like to explore both sides of the argument, you could say…

  • Anonymous

    I do try on the odd occasion to post a “cough coffee over the keyboard” comment, that might need a re-read. My other reply should cover it, in what I was trying to point out.
    Wonder if the government will do some u-turns during those games regarding the closure of Remploy factories and on the benefit changes? These changes will definitely be brought up during the games, and even by the brit athletes themselves. Now that would really stir things, ey, especially if they have a gold medal round their neck at the same time, ey? And then it will be really red-faced Cameron time.

  • Anonymous

    Better clear up that – Ray from Kinks and Pet Shop Boys were good too, and that girl going round with others in those Bentleys too, but wasn’t really impressed by the rest. Thought more imagination would have been used for appearing acts, but many turned it down – would be nice to know their reasons, genuinely, with no critisism to them.

  • Anonymous

    Yes Gilliebc. And I have noticed it does not say “this is a reply to…” thingy in replies too, so it is confusing who is replying to who when there is a long list of replies. There is a feedback button of the update mods, when you click that wheel thing at top, if anyone fancies complaining. Just imagine you are on hols abroad, and in complain mode…. : )

  • Anonymous

    oops, was meant to end that comment with “Stephen lad, and Tiki yesterday”, but something went wrong, as they do.

  • Anonymous

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/sports/athletics/events/womens-marathon
    Tiki as here, who won the ladies marathon on Saturday!?!

  • Michele

    A couple of years ago my son attended a little boy who’d lost part of one leg as well as the other foot when he ran out for something he’d dropped, having not heard a Croydon tram approaching.
    A short while later he met a bloke who’d lost both lower legs in a RTA and after less than 2yrs was coping wonderfully on blades.
    Hopefully the little boy is as lucky and might even be the envy of some schoolfriends; the man was also able to drive!

  • Anonymous

    There is a certain swimmer from Swansea that her local Remploy factory is closing, gold medals already. This could be a minefield for Cameron and Clegg.
    Maybe that is why there is an inordinate time between the end of the Olympics to the start of the Paralympics? Or was that set with us lot in our time, Labour?
    Can’t wait for the mexican ’68 power fists be put up in the air….

  • Anonymous

    Alright 11.3bn all told then. Still not sure if that figure before or after gate receipts, TV money etc. Would be nice to see a study but will always be difficult as how do we know who visited London because of what they saw of it on TV, who commissioned a British company for an architectura or creative project based on the works of Danny Boyle or the Park builders etc. I don’t have figures but my belief is we’ll earn back the 11.3bn and then some. I’ve moved from anti to pro, so don’t say I don’t change my opinions – or admit when I’ve done so!

  • Gilliebc

    Thanks Ehtch for the info. re. the feedback thingy. I think I shall avail myself of that facility later on and give them some ‘feedback’ lol. I liked the system as it was. It wasn’t perfect. But it was better than this ‘upgrade’ For some strange reason this larger writing/printing, hurts my eyes. i.e. gives me eye-strain.

  • Anonymous

    Gilliebc, sent a complaint already, saying ” if you don’t allow me a plain line
    between my poem lines,
    I will send my lads round,
    and disqus,
    you will certainly not be wanting that!
    oh no.” : ))

  • Anonymous

    If its based on posts, as opposed to visits, then I can only think it is averaging out over a time that started just before your holiday. I think Ehtch posts the most, then you.

  • Anonymous

    Have heard Croydon is still getting used to old time trams. Is your son a paramedic, Michele?

  • Anonymous

    as if! you don’t stop bouncing your gums, Michele. : )