The Olympics and Paralympics has united a nation and, perhaps inevitably, made us reevaluate our values and worth. Early on in the Olympics, an image of Ennis triumphantly jumping went viral. Behind her the words "Dear British media, please can we have more of these types of celebrities and less of the Jordans, Jodies and BB contestants so our children grow up with more positive role models? Thank you."
Similar sentiments have followed and it seems appropriate, and somewhat ironic, that these feelings culminated during the Olympics, coined of Mount Olympus, home of the gods of Greek mythology. These gods were portrayed as privileged beings, yet their lives were a vividly illustrated mess, rife with affairs, violent deaths and unhappiness. Our culture perpetuates this ethos, manifest in the cult of celebrity. It sells papers. We revel in schadenfreude.
I have no issue with the concept of celebrity. Far from it. Some people are simply destined for fame. The obsessive geniuses, big dreamers and those lucky sods who are just plain talented. No, what I take issue with is disposable celebrity. The WAGs. The reality-show fodder. The sex tapers. Such people swim in a deeply unpleasant undercurrent, pulled at the fork of the rivers of tabloid celebrity into those who are either ridiculed or despised.
We use them, just as the Greeks did, to reassure and console ourselves, "well, he may be a king, but his wife is a mentalist who murdered their own sons and made him eat them!" But is this behaviour innately programmed, or socially constructed? Will we tire of laughing at kings and Gods?
The past six weeks have been refreshing and maybe we're ready for a long-term change. Once pessimistic and cynical, morale has been sky high throughout Great Britain. We cheered, instead of deriding. Headlines splashed across papers gave use pride. Women made up a greater percentage than ever of the Olympians as, for the first time, every national contingent included at least one woman. We can take the opportunity to cultivate strong British female role models, both able and disabled, not married into fame or overtly sexually objectified; Ennis. Simmonds. Jones. We lament the departure of the games - a holiday from real life. But perhaps we're not satisfied with a summer off.
Therefore, it's natural that we've, at least temporarily, shifted focus to athletes, who typify the concept of striving to achieve their goals. The immense physical, psychological and emotional strain that comes with the territory is greatly admirable, and our veneration has been evident in our overwhelming response to the Paralympics, whose newly elevated status has seen them reach the biggest audience in the history of the games, and this gives us even greater cause to be proud.
In light of Team GB's record-breaking achievements, is it possible to celebrate the positive traits of human endeavour - such as perseverance, especially in the face of adversity, intellect and skill - and shun stupidity as commodity, and standardised beauty as currency? Can we widen our focus to encompass not only writers, singers, actors but other noteworthy people presented to us in the Opening Ceremonies?
Enlightenment, the Paralympics opening, highlighted science, Stephen Hawking and Shakespeare. In July, Danny Boyle's Isles of Wonder bravely gave us a manifesto for the future.
The few famous faces present were wildly deserving, and hugely outnumbered by the volunteers, the real stars. Celebrated were the unsung heroes of the NHS, the positive potential of multiculturalism and the achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Society has had it wrong for too long. Doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and many others shape our society, debatably far more usefully than the reality/talent show people who tend to fill our screens.
We now posses a powerful spring board. However, Just as the sophisticated sanitation system of the Roman Empire fell into disrepair, leading to dark medieval centuries of defecating into the ground, it is inevitable that no matter how much we evolve as a society, we are doomed in some ways to regress. Both closing ceremonies demonstrated this perfectly.
Sunday's lack of narrative and the utterly wasted opportunity to further inspire on the world stage was disappointing but sadly, not wholly unexpected. There was no celebration of culture, sport, Britain or achievement - it was evening with Coldplay and friends. Although an arguably more coherent offering, Kim Gavin, Director of the Closing Ceremonies, has poorly misjudged the mood of a nation crying out for more positive role models, instead delivering two uninspiring over-hyped pop concerts, save for glimmers of hope - As Lord Coe recounted his exchange with a Games Maker, a doctor on duty on 7/7, who found closure through the games said;
"I've seen the worst of Mankind. And now, I've seen the best of mankind"
It has been the athletes. The Games Makers. The volunteers. The spectators.
We made the games.
As an inspired nation, what steps can we now take to further cultivate the cultural landscape?
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more