Sunday, 12 August 2012

London 2012 - Inspiring many generations

I can remember vividly where I was on 6th July 2005.
What better view could you have?
I was sat in a computer room with colleagues at South Derbyshire District Council doing some consultancy work whilst I had the text feed of the BBC website open in the background pressing refresh every few seconds to wait to see if London had been successful in winning the 2012 Olympic games.

Of course noone in the room that day expected that we would be successful. Paris had been so far ahead in the bidding process and everyone expected them to win, even if they had got embroiled in a gaffe about the quality of Scandanavian food only a few days earlier.

When the text feed eventually showed that London would be the hosts of the XXX Olympiad there was elation along with a smattering of incredulity from everyone in the room. Right there and then I was determined that my family and I would be there to experience this once in a lifetime event.

When ticket processes were announced like many many others I entered the ballot and like many many others I received nothing.

But like so many others I kept trying and eventually managed to get tickets for 4 events that I really didn't have a great deal of interest in just to be there. I was so lucky.

Over the past two weeks we have been very fortunate to see the eventual gold medal winners, Mexico, playing football at Coventry; to feel the roof raising atmosphere as Team GB put up a determined fight at womens volleyball at Earls Court; to experience the Olympic Park (and the sunburn) as Australia faced off against USA in the hockey; and yesterday to cap it all off standing at the barriers on The Mall to see elite athletes that will be forever in my adulation at the Mens 50K Race Walk.

These Olympics have been undoubtedly two of the best weeks of my life.

The thrill of experiencing some of the worlds best athletes live has been mirrored by watching on television those 'where were you' iconic moments on television.

Over the past two weeks the vast majority of people in this country, me included, have become proud to be British again.

Britain has delivered.

Our athletes have been world beating.

Our government (both Labour in winning and macro planning and the coalition in programme management) has facilitated.

And perhaps most importantly the people of Britain through volunteering as gamesmakers and in the years running up to 2012 at sports clubs up and down the country as coaches, or simply parents driving their kids to fixtures, have shown what we can do as a nation.

It makes me very proud to have been part of it.

But there is something which has bought a tear to my eye more than once which has made these two weeks so special and something which I fervently hope will be a legacy of these games.

I honestly believe over the past two weeks we have been nicer people.

Strangers are talking to one another on trains. We are helping mums with pushchairs up stairs. We seem to have regained our manners.

On the news this morning people are being asked what was their moment of the games.

Here's mine.

When I think back to when we won the games in 2005 I was also doing consultancy work in the London Borough of Newham. It wasn't a nice place to go, it was run down, it had high levels of crime, it had groups of disaffected young people walking the streets.

Last week as I got off the tube at West Ham station to walk to the Olympic park the regeneration of the area was self evident and I hope long lasting but so much more than that were those young people giving their time to direct, to assist and to high five. I'm not ashamed to say I cried.

Walking from that tube station I thought about the legacy of these games and how I truly hope there is a long lasting benefit.

But more than I thought about the phrase 'Inspire a Generation'. Those young people in Newham and many many more around Britain have certainly inspired mine.


  1. Powerful stuff Leon. The games have been a triumph:)