OPINION - London 2012 to Lionesses: can we admit we’re good at things?

·3-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

London 2012. We all started out so cynical – but then again, the budget began at £2.4bn. I sometimes think it took an outsider in the shape of Mitt Romney, as Republican nominee for president, coming to London and committing a diplomatic gaffe in questioning how much we wanted the Games for us to admit that, erm, we really did.

All doubts were dispelled by the time the Queen hurled herself off a helicopter, Brunel put a coal fire under the industrial revolution and Team GB took to the track as David Bowie’s epic, Heroes, blared out. Go one, I’ve gone to the effort of time-stamping each link above and I dare you to watch without goosebumps.

To be honest, I don’t know whether we miss 2012 or we all simply preferred being 10 years younger. It was hardly an innocent time. For one thing, the country was still coming together after a referendum that tore families apart, on the adoption of the alternative vote (AV) system.

More seriously, the Games began barely a year after the 2011 London riots, which saw looting, arson and the mass deployment of police across the capital following the shooting of Mark Duggan.

Now, it’s asking a lot of an Olympic and Paralympic Games – what are in effect two-week jamborees – to transform everything in your city from sport to housing and transport.

And as the Standard reveals today, the health legacy is a mixed bag. London’s six Olympic boroughs have seen childhood obesity rates soar to some of the highest in the country in the decade since the Games. While four of them – Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Newham and Hackney – are among the 12 worst local authorities for overweight Year 6 children in England.

Fast forward to 2022 and after watching Alessia Russo’s impudent backheel for the 147th time, the question we should ask ourselves is how can we make the most of the legacy the Lionesses are building?

Watching the match on TV and following the chat on Twitter, the occasion felt no different to last year’s men’s Euros. But as Arsenal legend and national treasure Ian Wright said after the match, girls have to be given the opportunity to play football at school:

“Whatever happens in the final now, if girls are not allowed to play football, just like the boys can, in the PE, after this tournament, then what are we doing?

In the comment pages, Arts Editor Nancy Durrant admits she’s always felt about the Mercury Prize rather as one might a colleague’s birthday. “I know I ought to care more about it than I do.” But this time around she’s heard of (and enjoys) nearly all of the 12-strong shortlist of nominees.

While Londoner’s Diary Editor Robbie Griffiths says the Tory leadership candidates’ tirades against migrants won’t wash in London.

And finally, turn the contrast down on your phone or computer and go behind the scenes of This Bright Land at Somerset House, a month-long extravaganza unlike any festival before. Worth it for the hero image alone.

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