Leading article: The days of our lives

London 2012 is a triumph of new Britain – of all ages, colours and backgrounds

Share
Related Topics

If there is an unsung founder of Britain's triumphant performance at the Olympics, it is surely the unlikely figure of Sir John Major – a man who, were he still in office, would no doubt be describing the past fortnight as "a not inconsiderable success". He instituted the National Lottery, which has proved such a bountiful source of funds for our elite athletes. Admittedly, as a member of the party that sold off school sports fields with such alacrity, he had some amends to make. In this uniquely Tory form of income redistribution, money has been taken (albeit voluntarily) from the many and given to the few. As long as this continues, high promise should never again wither for the want of a grant.

British athletes' success is a triumph, therefore, not merely of individual talent and effort, but also of public funding. David Cameron's and Boris Johnson's attempts to garner reflected credit will not survive the night if they do not acknowledge and act upon this. Mr Cameron's usual reliance on easy-on-the-ear anecdotes – most recently with his remarks about Indian dancing in schools not really being sport – shows that he still has a narrow grasp of physical activity as done by most of us unblessed with the talent of a Trott or Farah. The challenge now is to see enthusiasm for watching sport translate into doing it. That means reform of school curriculums, and assistance to boost the already high numbers of teachers coaching out of school hours. It needs, too, a change in the way participating in sport is viewed. Physical activity is advocated so often as an antidote to obesity, but its great virtue is not that it is a life-prolonger, a sort of recreational five-a-day, but fun. And, such is its variety, that, whatever your age or body shape, there is a physical recreation that will give pleasure and add dimension to any life.

Yet we didn't just play up and play the games – very well, as it happened – we also organised the whole thing, created the arenas, transported the crowds, protected them and the athletes, and made these Olympics – from the first moments of the opening ceremony – the Happy Games. This country, perennial podium finisher in its specialist event of being unimpressed with itself, not only laid on a sensationally successful global spectacle, but also made it – with its humour, quirkiness and touches of irony – a very British affair.

This summer, starting with the Jubilee, has been a continuous promotional video to the rest of the world. It has also reminded its own citizens of the capabilities of this odd little island and its people. You'd have to be made of wood not to have felt twinges of pride these past few weeks, and you'd have to be peculiarly unimaginative to fail to see that the real reason for this goes far beyond running, jumping, fighting and riding.

We may not be galvanised by the Olympics into suddenly transforming the economy or curing the ills that tainted our streets last summer. But we'd like to think that more than a passing feel-good factor has been generated by London 2012 – not just the immediate lustre of gold, silver and bronze, but the knowledge that this was a triumph not of old Britain, but new: competitors in their teens or fifties, black, white and shades in between; ageing rockers, young rappers; women, contributing nearly half the glory and more than their shares of the smiles; volunteers from every background; the witty, the imaginative, the accomplished. The knowledge of that, the confidence to be drawn from it, could be the real legacy of these Games.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there