The Final Ceremony of the Olympic Games last night was a memorable and moving event. Three and a half hours of festivity which, echoing the theme of the Opening Event, celebrated something of what it means to be British and the energy and creativity of London. It included fashion and dance in an energetic and boisterous background of 50 years of the best of UK popular music. But what stays in the memory most of all was a deep sense of joyfulness.
Today people are reflecting on the emergence of this phenomenon. It’s almost as if we have surprised ourselves through discovering that we can be happy together. Everyone is remarking on the contribution of the Olympic Volunteers who helped so many people around the city. Their smiles, courtesy and willingness to talk to strangers made a deep impression on sportspeople, visitors, and Londoners alike. People have felt better both about the city and themselves and are beginning to question how we can maintain this surprising development.
It’s all in complete and stark contrast to the events of almost exactly a year ago (August 6th – 10th), when parts of London experienced rioting, and begs many questions. I sense it’s important to ask those questions based, as many of them are, on the way in which our attention is focussed. One thing was clear about the Olympics - they were about seeking to do one's personal best, to focus into and support others. They generated a shared spirit of desire for the common good which, in a real sense, is deeply religious.
One final reflection, which comes from my recent visit to Rome, concerns the contribution of the wealthy to the health of a city. In Rome one cannot but marvel at the beauty of so many works of art which were created by extremely wealthy individuals for the benefit all the citizens. The great fountains, arches, statues and piazza’s were often gifts to the city from those who had made their fortune by questionable means but who, nonetheless, recognised that they had the means of enriching the lives of the population through great works of art. They didn’t just spend it on their homes, cars, yachts, jets or family. Perhaps today's multi-millionaires (not just bankers but footballers, pop stars and even artists) might consider their responsibility to society and, as Lakshmi Mittal has done in donating the ArcelorMittal Orbit to the Olympic Park, gift similar works for the benefit of future generations.