In the August riots of 2011 I had to experience something nobody should have to - I watched my home city burn. Politicos of all stripe were quick to ...
It is one thing to tell someone what they can achieve but when you can relate to them on a certain level you can lead by example. For this reason the achievements of the young Olympic medallists should be recognised as a platform for youth empowerment, which has provided young people with an element of hope for their future.
Young people are still unemployed, funding is still being withdrawn from the poorest and most vulnerable communities in society; those at the bottom of our society are still made to feel worthless and hopeless, so the incentive and willingness to riot remains.
One year ago, England experienced the most significant outbreak of rioting in the entire post-war era. One year on, to what extent are we worried about a repeat of the riots? At first glance, many of the wider conditions that surrounded the riots remain, if they have not worsened.
There is real hope here - one only need look at the Olympics to see an example of how collaboration can really engineer success. Just one year on from the riots, the energy and optimism from London 2012 can be harnessed to bring people together to make real change. There is a general mood of positivity in the air, which can be turned into something tangible.
The world's attention is on London at the moment, as it was a year ago but for very different reasons. But how much has really changed since the riots that disfigured my town and other parts of the capital last August?
This weekend I watched Usain Bolt run the 100m as a VIP guest in the Olympic stadium; this time last year I was watching my home town burn in the summer riots. Had I made different choices I could have been watching the race from prison.
Exactly a year ago, hundreds of kids misbehaved really badly, so why has nobody asked the question? Have we - society, government, family - done something wrong? Why the loud silence? Oh, sorry, I forgot - they are they just nasty little rioters, and should go to prison. There is nothing else to ask. Where is the reflection, the understanding, the questions? Those arrested during the riots mainly came from deprived areas and had the poorest educational backgrounds. They set fire to their own communities, and looted consumerist goods − plasma TVs, "branded" fashionable electronics and expensive shoes. Why did they do what they did?
As we celebrate the shining achievements of so many British athletes in London 2012, the disorders of last August seem a nightmarish memory. How is it possible that two such different Augusts, two such opposing images of modern Britain, could be separated by only twelve months?
A year on from the riots which gripped parts of London and other cities up and down the UK, it is worth recalling that they were a predictable outcome to the economic and social pressure the communities impacted were under from a Tory-led coalition government, which had begun to dole out its punishment to the poor in response to an economic recession not of their making.
The riots showed us at a real low. The Olympics have been a national high. We have seen the best and worst reflections of ourselves over the past year - and so has the world.
I believe that the riots were, in part at least, a consequence of keeping people in a permanently dissatisfied state and persuading them that their lives will be improved by owning something they haven't got, can't afford and almost certainly don't need.
Do we really want to develop an education system based on well-meaning but ultimately skewed nostalgia?
Everybody concerned needs to grow a backbone. From the police and the politicians, to the young people, families and communities that they, not to mention the academics and commentators more interested in confirming their own prejudices, are so busy patronising. In fact we should all be getting to grips with what were extraordinary, disturbing and quite unprecedented events but may well come back to haunt us if we don't.
When we think back on London in the year 2012, where will we cast our minds?
I heard on the radio yesterday a young policeman describing some rioters who had attached Stanley knives to sticks to use as weapons. This is gutting and the new statistics are stomach-churning. One of the things that I remember most from those evenings last year is the fear. That crippling feeling of the unknown. How close to our homes were they going to get? Why?