Simon Kelner: Let's direct this surge of pride towards lasting change

Kelner's view

Share
Related Topics

As Britain's medal haul gets better, so the growth figures get worse. Could they be in any way related? Of course not, but we are invited to believe that the successes of the London Olympics, both in terms of the staging and the host country's athletic achievement, could have lasting benefits in the UK's economic performance.

Certainly, it's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the tourism industry will profit from the image we have presented to the world. Anyone who has visited London over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking that the city is full of helpful citizens only too happy to give you directions while wishing you a nice day.

Everywhere you go, there are stewards with loudhailers urging you to enjoy yourself, or to wave your flag, or give a cheer. Because I am a Mancunian curmudgeon (or so many of my correspondents believe), I found it a little off-putting, as if thousands of young Britons had been kidnapped, and reprogrammed by Starbucks. The ubiquitous soundtrack of things-can-only-get-better sentiment and communal exhortation made me feel I was in a New Labour version of North Korea.

It will be fascinating to see how the legacy of the Games plays out in this respect. Does the Olympics set a new standard for civic behaviour? There is little doubt that, since the Games have got going, people have generally been more welcoming. Of course we will struggle to keep it up when the circus leaves town and the news bulletins are about economic failure rather than sporting success, but it would be beneficial if some of the patriotic fervour that has swept up so many Britons could be preserved, and directed towards lasting improvements in more important areas of society.

Much has been made of the need to increase sporting opportunity in state schools (it is a shocking statistic that, while 11 times as many pupils attend state schools as private schools, Britain's medallists are equally shared between the two sectors). David Cameron has been quick to seize the moment, and say more effort should be made in the aftermath of the Games to get children playing sport (even though his Government has approved the sale of 20 school playing fields since the election).

But should we really be that concerned about creating the circumstances to ensure the next generation of Chris Hoys thrive? The Olympic Games have been a glorious distraction, and yesterday's inflation report which shows we are in the midst of a double-dip recession could hardly have been more indicative of that. Sure, we want to create a sporting legacy. But it would be wrong to concentrate on sport.

Let's bottle some of the national pride we've seen over the past fortnight and put it towards increasing educational opportunity across the board, confronting social exclusion, and tackling the widening inequalities that exist way beyond the playing field.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes