17 August 2012
The search for a legacy
As a media watcher I can't help noticing our nation's obsession with finding an Olympic legacy.
It started with politicians speculating that the legacy will be revamped volunteering, a sort of Big Society 2.0. But one headline writer dashed that hope today by suggesting that we can't afford to leave the legacy in the hands of politicians.
Ahead of London being awarded the Olympics, Lord Coe and Tony Blair promised us that the Games would inspire a generation. To them this meant a nation becoming more involved in sport. But even this hope now seems to be floundering in the wake of cuts to school sports funding and council-run recreation facilities.
Is the legacy more intangible – perhaps it's a resurrection of national pride that will finally shake off the shadow of political correctness that follows any public use of our national flag? I for one have quite enjoyed being part of the national hug-in following our nation's tally of achievement.
Might the legacy be commercial – an Olympic-sized march to our local bike shops to buy lightweight racers and slick lycra body suits?
One blogger suggested that if there is no significant take-up in any of these 'legacies' then the surge in national pride – nice as it is – will have come at a princely sum. Oh dear.
I can't help thinking we are looking for this legacy in the wrong place.
When Paul took on his nurturing role with the Thessalonians, he did so often at a distance, visiting when he could, paying his way without accepting funding from a depleted purse. He did what he could with what he had, urging them into prayer, prayer and more prayer and warning them against idleness while waiting for Jesus' return. He asked them to hold in high regard those who worked hardest.
What if the lasting gift from 2012 was to acknowledge the value of persistent and sustained encouragement, to show more faith in each other's progress, to give a helping hand when needed but also to urge each other to be self-sufficient and call on our inner strength?
Is that asking too much? After all, our athletes became Olympians because of encouragement from their coaches, mentors, families and supporters over the last four years. For many, this encouragement started well before 2008.
Without the nurture of personal qualities as seen in that early Thessalonian church, how would our Olympians have dragged themselves out of bed for those early morning starts in the gym or resisted time and again those late nights out with friends?
When we waved our Union flags at British Olympian success we were celebrating the hard work, the unseen fall and rise in spirits and the band of people behind each great athlete – not just his and her 10-second dash to fame.
The legacy hunters could do worse than mine the rich seem of obedience in an athlete's back story. They should think how they can inspire a generation to hold in highest regard the months and years of hard work that get a person to the starting line.
Andrew Green, press officer, Evangelical Alliance
(Image by Bernard Gagnon)