I will never look at someone with cerebral palsy or any other disability in the same way again. The Paralympics have broken taboos I did not know I had, taboos broken by stories of prosthetic limbs being hurled around the olympic village as much as the sight of athletic achievement.
The way we have embraced the Paralympics has been simply stunning – a tremendous boost to our national pride and a signal to the rest of the world of how we can not just tolerate but celebrate differences between us. This is our little legacy to the world!
But I reckon we have proved something to ourselves too. These were olympics where there was no terrorism, no hijacking of other’s achievements to promote alternative agendas, we’ve proved that we’re capable of running an apolitical celebration and if the booing of George Osborne, Hunt and May meant anything – it was probably a protest at politics being on display.
The local organisers of the games – the gamesmakers – are at the centre of all my happy olympic memories. Never once can I remember anything but smiles and good will emanating from these good people. Whether chatting to them on the tube , questioning them at the Olympic Park or laughing and dancing around with them , they have showed a face of Britain – and particularly London – that has changed my view of what social responsibility means. I hope it will inspire me to be a gamesmaker in how I conduct myself!
So often I’ve spoken to people who have said that they have changed in the attitude to the games. People who were talking of going away because of the predicted transport chaos, now talk of how the tube and busses have improved. I am one of them! Read my blogs on the Olympics in May and July.
In recognising this change, we need to accept we are wrong. Actually I need to apologise to Lord/King Coe for what I wrote/how I felt. Despite this, re-reading what I wrote about Lockdown London and the mistakes surrounding the opening of the stadium, I suspect that my voice and the many other similar, were part of the process of getting it right.
More importantly, the “journey” from scepticism to the “free hugs” being given away by those I’m listening to on Radio 5 this morning, saying goodbye to the Olympic Park, is a journey that needs to repeated elsewhere.
If as a nation, we can embrace this energy and focus it on similar journeys – translating aspects of our lives from shoddy to brilliant, depressed to elated, then the legacy of the games will been much wider than the Copperbox and the Stadium and the regenerated Lea Valley brilliant as that legacy is in itself.
There’s plenty to smile about right now, let’s smile , put aside the bitter and suck the sweet.
- Olympic Medalist Louis Smith Meets Bands at Emerging Icons Stage at Olympic Park (hangout.altsounds.com)
- Paralympic Games and Jubilee Park opening (leytonstonetoday.net)
- A million fans make the Paralympics the true ‘Londoners’ Games’ (standard.co.uk)
- London 2012 Paralympics: Disability sport festival to be held in Olympic Park (standard.co.uk)
- Will the Paralympic Games change opinions on disabled people? (itv.com)
- Roger Black: Inspire a generation? Mission accomplished (independent.co.uk)
- War veteran Joe Townsend descends into Olympic stadium (itv.com)
- Column: History-maker Pistorius a hypocrite, too? (nbc29.com)
- A Golden Summer (jamestbyrne.wordpress.com)
- Prosthetic Limbs Turned Into Art (abcnews.go.com)