The media this week has been awash with commentary on the vast gap in the British cultural landscape between August 2011 and August 2012. This time last year, we were transfixed by images of rioters smashing windows and burning buildings. Now, we are overwhelmed by Olympic spirit, and it is the athletes stealing victory and winning medals that capture the national imagination.
What is it that has grasped the British people and changed the mood of a whole country? The panacea that is the Olympics has raised everybody’s spirits to the point of almost mass hysteria, yet we are still in the grip of an ever burgeoning economic decline with seemingly little light at the end of the tunnel. The Olympics has provided us with a perfect bubble to forget about our worries for a few glorious weeks.
The riots demonstrated the enormous, and terrifying, power of the herd mentality- how easily individuals take the decision to step outside their normal morality when led by the crowd. The astonishing feat the organisers of the Olympics have pulled off is harnessing this very same mind set, but instead of the individualism that drove the riots, weaving it through with memes of community. The volunteer stewards have been celebrated almost as much as the competitors themselves. The heroes of the Games, Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins et al, we are reminded, come from the most normal of backgrounds. The message, clearly: The Olympics belong to all of us. And we have responded by taking ownership of them in glorious fashion.
Is this the start of a new era for Britain, defined by positivity and belief in our country? Or will we come plummeting to ground where the bubble bursts? For those in positions of leadership, there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to seize the legacy of the Olympics, using the might of the crowd and turning it into something meaningful and long lasting. In August 2013 we’ll be looking back and reflecting on where the intervening year has taken us. So where will you be?