8 Aug 2012

What do the Olympics tell us about ourselves?

That we are builders, designers, craftsmen and women; that we can organise; that we can train, set our hearts upon an ambition, and deliver it. It is who we are. We may not, many of us, wallow in the extremes of empire, but together we are a consequence of it.

This medium sized island state once somehow administered, dominated, exploited, developed, half the then known land mass of the world. Today it is different.

We are here, and our talent is dispersed across a very different world.

Our architects are working in Shanghai, Sao Paulo, and Mumbai. Our scientists are with the Hadron Super Collider at Cern; with the Mars landing project in California; designing the next generation of airliners in Toulouse; combatting climate change in  northern Norway. We have no limit to our export.

We have known sporting prowess all our lives in every aspect of the game, but it has never before come together like this. In the Olympic ideal we have invested. We have invested vast and vital pennies of every cash strapped man, woman, and child in Britain.

In so doing we have created a moment of nigh incredible excellence not just for us – though the names Farah, Ennis, Hoy, Wiggins, Rutherford, Pendleton and so many more will linger long – but for the world – to come together in the pursuit and delivery of extreme achievement.

So where does it take us in the afterglow? Who shall we be when Bolt is long home in Jamaica? How can we enable what we have done to galvanise the change so many yearn for in their lives?

Shall we, who continue to build other people’s cars so finely, return to building the bicycle – whose technology we have done so much to develop?

Can we, who can design and build the best aquatic centre, the best velodrome, the best of Olympic complexes, now turn our hearts, minds, and hands to building homes and living circumstances fit for a state that has achieved so much?

Can we turn our vast skills to making things beyond the Olympic Games that the world needs and that we have the innate national personality to conceive and deliver?

Or will history tell us that this multi-embered cauldron was only lit by a chance flash in the pan?

 This does not look like a dying gasp, but like a call for the liberation of minds caught in a belief that life is fueled by derivative trading, and that fortunes flow from super software alone rather than from the vital accompaniment of the hard graft of practical application, manufacture, and construction. This is what this Olympic Games tells us.

As the political classes obsess about keeping power without risking too much change, and the banking classes wriggle between, risk, ridicule, and riches, could we not pull in a new direction? Could we not gather in the slipstream of athletic prowess and call up the best in each of us, for all?

How can we allow such poverty and waste, when we have proved we can do so much?

Follow @jonsnowC4 on Twitter.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4