Inspiring a generation – An Olympic dream

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By Denrele  Animasaun,  London

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

On the   27th of July, all eyes were on London. How could they top the Bejing opening four years earlier? The pride of England was at stake and boy, did we know it.

Billions watched around the world when the Red Arrows jet formation flew across the stadium spewing the red, white and blue of the Union Jack. The Brits usually are known  for their stiff upper lip and are not known  to  blow their own trumpet.

The opening ceremony reflected   a  departure from self deprecation and  the  theme of the London 2012 Games  was  there for all to see; inspiration, youth and urban transformation. It was a ceremony ‘for everyone’; the multi-culturalism was apparent in the number of ethnicities’ representation. It was one of celebration and the contributions the UK has made to the world through innovation and revolution as well as the creativity and exuberance of British people.

Some of the references were lost in translation and without a prior knowledge of British eccentricity and off centre sense of humour. It appeared to some as whimsical .

For me  the  coup  of  the evening was when the  actor,  playing   James Bond, went  into Buckingham palace  to  escort  the Queen to  the games. I mean, that was epic. The Queen, followed in the step of her great grandfather who opened the  1906 London Olympics and her father , the London  1948 Olympics and now the Queen, in 2012.

I may have let the cat out of the bag but  the queen and 007 did not actually  jump  out of the helicopter and parachuted into the  stadium. They hired stunt doubles. The Artistic director, Oscar-winning film Director, Danny  Boyle, whose vision took the observers through  history,  music and social innovation that  Britain shared with the world. There is the NHS, a medical marvel which is free to all at  the  point of delivery.

Opening Spectacle •••Animals and actors enter the stadium for the the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27 .AFP PHOTO

The relatives of Emily Pankhurst, the leader of the women Suffragettes, took part and women around the world owe her a debt of gratitude as she fought for equal rights for women. Brunei, Darussalam, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have, for the first time, included female athletes in their ranks.

There was Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web. Sir Paul McCartney performed the Hey Jude and we sang along at home  and  in the  stadium.

The spectacular finale of the event saw the Olympic Cauldron, formed of 205 copper petals representing the competing nations coming together in London for the Games, ignited by seven young torchbearers nominated by Britain’s past and present Olympic and sporting greats.

For the first time at an Olympic Games, the 10 men’s Boxing events at London 2012 will be joined by three women’s events: women’s Fly, women’s Middle, and women’s Light and women football.

The World champion 800m runner, Caster Semenya, looked defiant carrying the  South  African  flag  after a  long  absence from international sport  over  her  gender.  Fellow South African, Oscar Pistorius, nicknamed ‘Blade Runner’, the double amputee has been selected to run in the 400m and the 4x 400m and in doing so will become the first double amputee ever to compete at the games.

The  message of 2012, centrally based on the youth and the older generation handing over the reins of the future of the Olympics. Call it what you may, but it is an important message that will ensure that the younger generation is motivated and inspired to excel in their   future endeavours. It was about inclusiveness, individuality, integrity, ingenuity and introspection.

The national team match past had their respective country rep or head giving voices of encouragement from the side lines. The Queen of Spain, Michelle Obama amongst many, were rooting   for their respective national teams. It  was a  shame  that  the  Nigerian  team  did  not  have  anyone  in the  enclosure to  support  them. The Nigerian team looked resplendent in their green white green outfit.

My  23 year old son, who was not hot on the Olympics sent me a text: “It  was  awesome to feel patriotic, fantastic show, still smiling!” I could not have put it better myself. After the games, when the dust would have settled, then the real work would begin.

he legacy of the game is to generate the East end area. Majority of the young ones are not working, in education or in employment than any other area in London. It is planned that the athletes’ village would be affordable homes for the local people.

The nearby shopping mall would provide jobs and the recreational facilities will transform the area. In  this recession-filled times, London  has been able to  bring  some feel-good factor; the wedding, the  Queens  Jubilee and then  the  Olympics. International visitors’ visiting the capital are astounded by the approachability of the British.

The events have been a confidence booster, a money puller, the visitors are spending money and this  hopefully will in the medium term provide jobs  for the unemployed and the youths.  I don’t know  how long the feel-good  factor will end but while it is here, I  bet we will ride the wave.

Volunteering may be a foreign concept in Nigeria, but in the UK it is this unpaid, altruistic  group of people who gave their time to oil the wheels of good causes and ensure inclusiveness.

I once approached some big wigs in Nigeria  that  I  wanted  to  train volunteers to help people have access to health and social care in deprived areas in a southern state. The response was not encouraging and I have not given up. I do believe that we  should give our time to help those unfortunate than us without much fanfare. It seems that most Nigerians do not want to give something for nothing.

The 2012 Olympics could not have happened if it not for the volunteers. Nigeria has a long way to go when  it comes to altruism. They say “the measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members”.

I find the present crop of government officials in Nigeria,  so gauche and crass in the way they display their ill-gotten wealth in the  midst of such grinding poverty.

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