A spectacular success!
It started with passion, and ended with inspiration. London 2012 has delivered a stunningly successful Olympic Games and is now preparing for the Paralympic Games. The theme 'Inspire a generation' has captured the mood of the nation with high spirit and euphoria. From organisers to volunteers to athletes: people from all sections of life have made this success possible.
The nation is now basking in the glow of success in delivering the Olympic Games, thanks to the consensus among all political parties from the bid period until today, and leadership of the organising committee in being able to harness the enthusiastic contribution from all the stakeholders and support from people across the nation. Particular praise is genuinely being heaped on the tens of thousands of volunteers, the Games Makers as they are called, as well as the Police and the Armed Forces for their sense of humour and warm hospitality during the Olympics.
Lord Sebastian Coe, the LOCOG Chair, said about volunteer performance: "Our volunteers have been sensational. They've had boundless enthusiasm, goodwill, humour - they've done it with grace. And they have in large part been the face of these Games,"
The nation was glued to the news and people were pouring into the Olympic Park as Team GB surpassed expectations and raked in 29 golds to cement third position in the medal table. "The Olympics became the biggest national TV event since the current measurement system began in 2002, with 90% of the population (51.9 million) watching for least 15 minutes", according to the BBC.
When a country comes together with patriotic zeal, it can deliver; when people recognise everyone's worth, they succeed. It does not matter whether they are indigenous or whether they are originating from other parts of the world, but British Olympians have made history; Britain is now a world superpower in the field of sport.
Amongst quite a few sports superstars now in Britain, it was Mohamed (Mo) Farah that sparked the nation's spirit with his endless speed, stamina and talent as a long distance runner. This young man's prostration on the ground, a traditional Muslim practice to thank God at the height of one's success, was a sign of his humility. Britain gave him the opportunity to succeed; a 'proof of great multicultural Britain', according to comedian Eddie Izzard.
The weather, transport and security - the three uncertainties of London that many were worried about - worked spectacularly well. The Olympic Park in Stratford and other venues were buzzing with people from across the world. With more than 300 languages spoken by Londoners and virtually every race, nation, culture and religion in the world represented in the city, London as a world city was having its most enjoyable summer sunshine for two weeks. With athletes from 204 countries, it was an assembly of humanity from four corners of the world crisscrossing London during this period.
With around £9.3bn public money to build the infra-structure and over £2bn private money to stage the Games, have the London 2012 Games been a worthwhile venture? The discussion will surely continue, but the fact that a derelict industrial dumping ground has been transformed into a modern urban Park and huge sporting venues, connected with massive transport infra-structure, and an Olympic Village that will later on become a housing estate is an amazing phenomenon. Not to mention all of this is right next to one the largest shopping centres in Westfield. All this has truly transformed the East End, which has been a deprived area with disadvantaged people for decades. Among people in these six host boroughs there are significant numbers of people from the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities, highlighting modern London's distinctive diversity and creativity and the huge ambition of regenerating the area.
It is time to work for a lasting legacy
What the London 2012 Games are going to bring for these people and what legacy it is going to leave in this area has always been a big discussion point since the Olympic bid was being prepared before 2005. This was one of the main points highlighted by the London 2012 bid team before the IOC. London had provided good legacies from the Olympics in 1908 and 1948; the question was whether modern London could deliver the promise of the legacy document that says, "After the Games the Olympic Park will be transformed into one of the largest urban parks created in Europe for more than 150 years"?
This is the area where the nation has to concentrate now, especially after the Paralympic Games are over on 9th September. Recent host cities such as Sydney, Athens and Beijing, have not fully fulfilled their promises of sustainable legacy. Can London make a difference?
The government published a Legacy Promises document in 2007 with five key points; a) making the UK a world-leading sporting nation, b) transforming the heart of the East End of London, c) inspire a generation of young people to take part in local volunteering, cultural, and physical activity, d) making the Olympic Park a blueprint for sustainable living, and e) demonstrate the UK as a creative, inclusive, and welcoming place to live in, visit, and for business.
Now the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), as a non-profit agency charged with overseeing the Olympic Park after the Games, has to come up with practical plans to translate the legacy vision into tangible reality. The local communities, civil society bodies, local governments, the GLA and the central government - all have to work hard to make sure that the massive public money that was invested to build the park with all its facilities and people's euphoria are not wasted. It needs sound and visionary leadership from the social as well as political leaders.
Also, as a country we need to build on from the success of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and work on intangible longer term legacy. We are sadly the most obese country in Europe. While investing in competitive and elite Games is important for maintaining sports supremacy in Olympic and Paralympic performance, we must also invest heavily to improve the health of our nation through fitness sports. In addition to obesity, many people in the six host boroughs have serious issues in diabetes and coronary heart diseases. We should create consciousness of healthy living through promotion and partaking in exercise and sports. Schools in the East End and across the country need to be geared up with further sports facilities; sport is no less important than literacy, numeracy and science. Children need emulation and inspiration from role models and we have plenty of them in sports now. This is vital for grass-root performance in our healthy living.
Olympic sports are elitist and poorer nations with weaker political and economic infra-structure are disadvantaged. But this is another issue which the global community needs to address.
The Olympic Park is going to be the No Ordinary Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in future; we hope it provides an extraordinary service to local people and beyond. No government is able to create awareness and provide services on any walk of life on its own, but a caring government comes up with joined up thinking and involve people across the society to make a project successful.
The British people and the government have now a unique opportunity to build a better Britain.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is an educationalist and parenting consultant (www.amanaparenting.com). He is a non-Executive member of the LOCOG Board. Follow Muhammad Abdul Bari on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MAbdulBari
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.
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