Jack is a highly promising 14 year old amateur boxer from Middlesbrough. Sharon, at the age of 33, is a magistrate in Birmingham. Gwenton works in Hackney, helping to get young people out of gangs. On the face of it, they don't have much in common. They're very different people, in different parts of the country. They are all well regarded and making a positive contribution to their own communities in their own very different ways. But there is one strong common thread.
Jack was an 11 year old tearaway in danger of getting into serious trouble until Erimus housing association offered him a choice between an ASBO and regular boxing lessons. Sharon, at 19, was a teenage mum living in hostels, who volunteered for Optima Community housing association, was then offered work experience and then a full time job. Gwenton is an ex-gangster who now works for Shian housing association helping others to avoid the traps he fell into.
There has been a torrent of comment about the difference between August 2011 and the riots and August 2012 and the Olympic Games. Last year apparently demonstrated all that is bad about modern Britain, this year demonstrates all that is good. The truth, as ever, is much more complex.
Last year, people like Gwenton were on the streets trying to stop the riots.
This year, in his own words, "the Olympics haven't helped young people here in Hackney in any way, shape or form. They can see the venues from their doorstep, bump into the foreign visitors walking down the street. There's a festival around them, but they're not a part of it". We need to be looking at what we can learn from the riots as we celebrate all that is good about the Olympics.
I love the Olympic Games, the successes we are celebrating and the inspirational stories behind the medals. The stories are of the hard work, the commitment, the great teams behind the athletes and the strength of common endeavour. They all show the critical importance of connectedness if the full potential of the athlete is to be realised.
But that's not just true of great sport. All over the country there are people who have real potential - people like Jack, Sharon and Gwenton. With rising numbers of young people not in education or training, unable to get jobs and increasing social exclusion in many areas - there are more people struggling to improve their lives and left dependent on the taxpayer. Many fear we may see more of the frustration which spilt over on to our streets last summer unless more is done to help these young people fulfil their potential.
The Prime Minister has said clearly that people should be given a hand up not a hand out and that is absolutely right. But who is doing this? Giving people a hand up must mean actively supporting people back into work, helping them write CVs, skills training workshops, creating apprenticeships and giving work experience, as well as ensuring everyone can play an active role in their community and creating places where people want to live.
For over seven million people last year their housing associations became their great team and provided that support. But they have done much, much more than just give them a much-needed hand up. They have believed in people who have previously felt disconnected from society and unvalued, and created a sense of community and belonging. There are no easy answers to the conditions that make people feel disconnected, unvalued and invisible. But there are success stories every bit as inspirational as those of our gold medal winners all across the country. They're not so public but they're just as important. And at the heart of them are housing associations believing in ordinary people, investing in them and helping them to reach their own gold medal potential.