i Editor's Letter: The phenomenon of the Games


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The Independent Online


I hate to say I told you so, but I told you the Games would be a huge success – it just needed the buildings, athletes and volunteers to become tangible, not hypothetical, thus changing the nonsense narrative about Zil Lanes. One reason why pre-Games doom-mongers were proved wrong is that, as ever, the "chatterati" lacked imagination. They failed to approach the events from the public's perspective. When criticising (in advance!) the Games' legacy for its lack of "civic capital", they were viewing capital in a financial context.

Instead, as Boris Johnson said: it actually was £9bn well spent. Not just on the extraordinary regeneration of a largely derelict area of east London; not just the infrastructure improvements; not just the excellence of the organisation of the Games themselves, but on something far less palpable.

What few commentators and politicians (with the obvious exception of Boris) grasp is how desperate the British public is for something and someone to believe in. A nihilistic narrative of decades of inexorable decline since the end of the War has seen institutions like the church, central government and the police decline in esteem, while false idols such as football, pop and TV stars fail to fill the void.

The Games, their athletes, the quite unexpected phenomenon of the purple volunteers all gave us that most elusive form of civic capital: confidence. We got our collective self-belief back . Perhaps, we can even stop banging on about 1966 and all that. This success is more refreshingly positive than the effect of any measure taken by any government in living memory. For that alone, we should all be grateful to Seb Coe and Team GB.