Sunday 12 August 2012

So what is the Olympic legacy for the people of Brent?

Harlesden street stall
One of many T shirt designs
There was a fantastic atmosphere in Harlesden yesterday after Usain Bolt's performance in the Olympics. Along with the recent celebration of 50 years of Independence there was evidence of renewed pride in Jamaican heritage.  Jamaican colours were everywhere in shop windows, street stalls and especially on people,  young and old. Small children carried Jamaican flags and one woman proudly showed me matching green, yellow and black flip flops, t-short and beads.  A grandmother told me how she had let her grand-daughter  stay up to watch Bolt compete and another said that she had recorded everything so that her grandchildren could view the historic moments again and again.

Perhaps what was most impressive was that non-Jamaicans were also celebrating, somehow with Jamaicans such a vital part of Brent's community, we were suddenly all Jamaicans and sharing in the joy.

As last week the euphoria was accompanied by anger by militancy over the potential closure of Central Middlesex Accident and Emergency with many of those signing the petition people who have used the facility and a good few who were also workers at local hospitals.

Mohamed Farah

With daughter Rihanna
 Mohamed Farah's two gold medals are  likely to impact on the Somali community in Brent (putting aside disputes over rival claims from Somalia and Somaliland) and its status in Britain. Farah like many of his generation came to Britain  as a child (at the age of 8) and has built a successful life in London.  Children are likely to identify with his daughter Rihanna as she danced and ran around joyously after her father's victories. Mohamed's self-identification as a UK citizen of Somali origin has significance for the many Brent Somalis who have gained citizenship.

Greeting the Olympic Torch in Forty Lane
When children get back to school in September it will be interesting to see what impact the Olympics have made on them from the initial excitement over the Torch procession (above) through the opening ceremony to the actual events.  I was e-mailed by a German journalist a week or so ago asking about the 'Olympic legacy' in local schools. I am afraid I never replied but I guess the real answer is that it remains to be seen - it is not just the sporting legacy (which must include the success of women athletes) but something much more about children's motivation, how different groups feel about themselves and each other, and the nature of our diverse community.

It is good that these aspects, perhaps sign-posted in advance by the opening ceremony have far out-weighed the impact of the corporate sponsors.

In her poem for the Guardian, Carol Ann Duffy, went further to link the Olympics with broader political issues.

Translating the British 2012

A summer of rain, then a gap in the clouds
and The Queen jumped from the sky
to the cheering crowds.
               We speak Shakespeare here,
a hundred tongues, one-voiced; the moon bronze or silver,
sun gold, from Cardiff to Edinburgh
               by way of London Town,
on the Giant's Causeway;
we say we want to be who we truly are,
now, we roar it. Welcome to us.
We've had our pockets picked,
               the soft, white hands of bankers,
bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver;
we want it back.
We are Mo Farah lifting the 10,000 metres gold.
We want new running-tracks in his name.
For Jessica Ennis, the same; for the Brownlee brothers,
Rutherford, Ohuruogu, Whitlock, Tweddle,
for every medal earned,
we want school playing-fields returned.
Enough of the soundbite abstract nouns,
austerity, policy, legacy, of tightening metaphorical belts;
we got on our real bikes,
for we are Bradley Wiggins,
               side-burned, Mod, god;
we are Sir Chris Hoy,
Laura Trott, Victoria Pendleton, Kenny, Hindes,
Clancy, Burke, Kennaugh and Geraint Thomas,
               Olympian names.
We want more cycle lanes.
               Or we saddled our steed,
or we paddled our own canoe,
or we rowed in an eight or a four or a two;
our names, Glover and Stanning; Baillie and Stott;
Adlington, Ainslie, Wilson, Murray,
               Valegro (Dujardin's horse).
We saw what we did. We are Nicola Adams and Jade Jones,
bring on the fighting kids.
               We sense new weather.
We are on our marks. We are all in this together.

1 comment:

Trevor said...

I think all this pride and celebration is in vain because the reality is all sport activities requires good health and when people are born and grow up in a country in which the caring of health is no seen as important and so people grow up and eventually learn to do unhealthy and unnatural things like smoking which is permitted because the hypocrites in charge always put profit before principle and then add insult to injury by promoting things like Olympics because its something for them to get puffed up with pride about every-time the nation wins medals
but even while the nation is out there competing and winning, the nation is also abusing themselves and each other and it is the hypocrites behind the Olympics that is responsible for that abuse and everyday it is is getting worse.
one cannot walk 5 yards without seeing cigarette stubs and empty cigarette boxes strewn all over the pavements of wembley and Brent.
that is shameful and this is just one of the reasons why I would never raise a flag or anything to promote this nation...when the hypocrites behind the exploitation start to realize that you don't build up by breaking down and you don't say to one work and pay your taxes while saying to another it is ok to sell tobacco to one another when that is causing 1000's each year to die from lung cancer but they overlook it because of the billions they rake in each year in tax revenue.
how can anyone be proud to be British when we as a nation exploit each other so badly?