Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Today, We Are All Londoners

The emotional import of these London Olympics didn’t truly impact me until I saw the Queen sitting in the Stadium during the Opening Ceremony. At that moment, the years fell away. And I saw a young Princess Elizabeth.

Her courageous father defied the pleas of advisers, and stayed in London throughout the Blitz of World War II, while German bombers pounded the East End of London. He stayed, to share the danger with his East Enders. They never forgot. And they loved him for it.

His daughter ascended to the throne less than a decade after the end of that awful War, her father exhausted by his sacrifice. In this year, when Britons the length and breadth of our small but proud isle celebrate 60 years of the Queen’s selfless service as Head of State, a selflessness learned from her father, we see her sitting in a magnificent Stadium, risen from the ashes of that same East End.

I can not believe that she did not feel the symmetry of honor that the moment represented for her, for East Enders and for all Britons, every bit as much as we all felt tremendous pride at the show we put on for the world, in spite of the troubles that beset our land.

It isn’t easy to present to the world a living montage of our past, when, for many visiting, that past reminds them that it was built on our unwelcome conquest of their lands. Nor is it so simple to forget that shenanigans in the financial districts of the host city, in the past few years, once again contributed to devastation in their nations.

Yet all present were gracious and open-hearted in their enjoyment of the international spectacle of togetherness we staged for them, and in which we invited them to engage. My hope now is that the pride we felt and the show of unity that we created can last more than the two weeks of the Olympics.

Great Britain has a unique opportunity to show the world that the Olympics are more than a two-week slogan. That we learn from our mistakes. That we are more than a fading Empire. More than a City of thieving financiers. That we are a nation that stands together when the moment is darkest, that we build together, and can overcome any adversity together.

At a time when our country is hurting from self-inflicted economic wounds, we nevertheless found a way to stage the greatest international show on earth. We can use that experience as a catalyst for dragging our country out of its financial and spiritual woes. And show the rest of the world a way forward for them, too.

As one people, with one voice, united as we have been for the Olympics and for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we turn on those financiers, who occupy another patch of the East End, within sight of the Olympic Stadium, and say, stop stealing from our citizens. Stop devastating a world that is hurting. Clean up your act. And start now to share the burden of righting the wrongs you wrought.

We turn to our politicians and say, we’re not going to ask the impossible. You are, after all, politicians. But try your hardest to pull together, for the rest of us, at least for a while. And do what you all know needs to be done to set our country back on course. If you must disagree, please do so civilly. But stop the sterile attacks. Forget the polls. Jockey for political advantage another time. Just do the right thing. Now.

We turn on the media and demand that they stop the whining, the hacking and the bribing. If we are worthy of the Olympics, we are worthy of more than tits on Page 3, John Terry on the Back Page and gossip in between. We deserve a press that exposes the callow, highlights success, and provides informed and useful opinion that enriches our nation, not Rupert Murdoch.

I am by experience a cynic. But I am at heart always an optimist. The Opening Ceremony of these London Olympics was nothing if not about heart.

So it is that I truly believe Great Britain will continue to surprise the world. Not just by staging the very best Olympics ever. But by using the symbol of these Olympics, risen from the ashes of the East End, to act as inspiration, as we lift the remainder of our country from its current miseries.

And in so doing, creating an even more enduring legacy for the rest of the world. Demonstrating that the Olympic Spirit, of fortitude and strength, aiming ever high, can be an ongoing venture. Not just for a few, in the sports arena. And not just one that occurs every four years. But, a venture of renewal and growth that works for everyone. Where all share and all succeed.