2012 has brought Britain together. The Olympics, Paralympics and the Jubilee combined to provide the most inclusive celebration of who we are that anyone can remember, says Sunder Katwala. But what happens when the flame goes out?
We are told that the happy spirit of this summer simply a holiday romance, which will melt away as everything returns to normal. That isn’t what most people want to happen. Six out of ten people believe the Olympic spirit could change Britain for good. But that won’t happen if we just simply wait and see what the Olympic legacy is. So British Future wants to start a debate about symbolic and practical ways that we could build on the positive spirit of 2012. Here are five British Future suggestions about how we might try to do that. We want to hear your views too – and are encouraging a twitter debate at #spiritof2012.
To kick-off the discussion, here are five proposals for the 2012 legacy.
1. Keep the park open this month
After the Olympic and Paralympic ticket rush left many disappointed, why not keep the Park open for the rest of September, and hold weekend participation events with Olympic and Paralympic stars on how to get into sport, before it closes to be renovated for 2013.
2. Break the football monoculture by varying our sporting diet
UK sport and Paralympic associations should work together to put on annually one national integrated showcase event, a British Champions Weekend, and a national school sports event held on the same day across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to create more future athletic champions, and give us a day to celebrate British sport.
The BBC Trust should make a public service commitment to proactively build public audiences for a broader range of sports, ensuring that we don’t only see women’s sport and disabled sport in prime-time once every four years. Bringing back a Grandstand-style Saturday sports show, work with governing bodies to show every hockey international live, more gymnastics and athletics, and other potentially popular sports where the rights could be good value. A New Superstars would help to build profile of sports stars beyond football. Who wouldn’t want to see Jessica Ennis take on Mo Farah at table tennis, or David Weir go up against Chris Hoy in the pool.
Political parties should be pressed to pledge to renew the Crown Jewels list of events broadcast free-to-air for a long-term period, such as the next 25 years. The Commons select committee should hold hearings on how to bring some Test cricket back to free television.
3. Local events that bring us together
Build on legacy of the Torch procession by finding more ways to bring people together locally without waiting decades for a Royal and Olympic occasions to coincide again.
Call on the Royal Mail to keep the post boxes gold until Rio 2016, so that there are everyday reminders of the spirit of the summer in towns across Britain. Hold citizenship ceremonies in Town Halls, perhaps coinciding with our national days across the nations of Britain, involving both new citizens and those turning 18, inviting other Britons to join in by “renewing their vows” and welcome our new citizens too.
4. Celebrate all of our flags and identities – and give England an anthem too
The Olympics have seen a celebration of an inclusive Britishness. Three-quarters of us believe they show we are a confident multi-ethnic nation, and the Games showed an embrace of Team GB and a rise in positive attachment to the Union flag in Wales and Scotland. This is an ideal moment to show that we don’t need to choose between the identities that we are proud of – and that everybody in Britain can fly two flags and sing two anthems if they want to.
The moment that Humphrey Keeper began Danny Boyle’s Opening ceremony by singing Jerusalem could be seen as the cultural moment that the song was confirmed as an English anthem – it is now time for our sporting bodies to catch up, and use an English anthem for English teams, and God Save the Queen for Team GB.
5. Make sure the public have a voice in debating our media culture
The Olympics and Paralympics have seen a celebration of what is good about Britain – not just the athletes’ achievements, but in the extensive local reporting of the unsung contributions of the torch carriers across the country. 63% of us believe the media get the balance wrong – and focus excessively on negative aspects of our society. Combining fearless scrutiny with accurate reporting of complex, often long-term social changes can be a very difficult balance to strike.
With the press and politicians are already squaring up for a ferocious fire-fight between political and media class insiders over the Leveson inquiry recommendations, there are good reasons to fear that the public will be crowded out of this debate about our media culture. If the report recommended the creation of a randomly selected citizens’ jury to help scrutinize and inform the deliberations of a reformed PCC, and getting editors and politicians to commit to engaging with it, that could be one way to ensure ordinary citizens don’t get crowded out.
In a new report out tomorrow, Team GB: How 2012 Should Boost Britain, British Future discusses the public’s desire to for a long-lasting legacy to the Olympics and Paralympics. Read it here: TeamGB report: How 2012 Should Boost Britain.