Bishop of Chelmsford on the Olympic 'legacy of goodwill'
"It isn’t the first time that the world has come to the East End of London. Waves of immigration have shaped the culture and aspirations of this most resourceful and diverse bit of England over many centuries. This has irrigated the whole of our culture, changing it in many ways.
"The London borough of Newham is in the Anglican diocese of Chelmsford , where I serve as Bishop. Alongside its many deprivations and challenges, I know it as a place of vibrant faith and irrepressible creativity.
"Now it has been athletes and tourists, the world’s media and, with them, the eyes of millions of people around the globe who have come to Stratford . We have all seen some marvellous and inspiring things, cheering medal winners and finding new and strange enthusiasm for sports we had hitherto barely heard of. There has been much talk of the legacy that will be left behind. The vast and impressive buildings of the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village will indeed bring much needed regeneration. But I am beginning to wonder whether the Olympic legacy may bring a further change as well: a legacy of good will.
"I was lucky enough to be in the stadium last week to see Usain Bolt win the 200 metres. It was a fantastic experience. On the train home I sat and chatted with one of the hundreds of Olympic volunteers. Each day she was doing the 2.30-10.30 shift outside Stratford station ushering great tides of people this way and that, making sure no one was lost, remaining unfailingly cheerful. OK, it isn’t the same as winning a gold medal, but her achievement is also heroic. Here is a big society worked out in the astonishing little details of selfless charity and kindness. And there are indeed hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. And the example of their simple, cheerful goodness is very inspiring. Last week I also met a 17 year old who is on duty at Stansted airport every other morning. There is nothing very glamorous about this. But she wanted to be part of it; part of something bigger than herself. She wanted to do something. So she is spending her summer welcoming strangers.
"At the same time, many of us have not only found ourselves surprised by the joy of the Olympics, we have rediscovered a desire to celebrate it with our neighbour. In community gatherings large and small – and the largest I have come across was organised by local churches and gathered ten thousand people in Central Park, Dagenham to watch the opening ceremony on a big screen – we have expressed our own need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It all just seemed too important, to special to watch on our own.
"Commentators, marvelling at the efficiency with which these Games have been put together, have said it is the largest logistical exercise in Britain since the Second World War. It might also be one of the largest outpourings of good will. This is an Olympic legacy worth holding onto: the desire to serve my neighbour and the desire to celebrate with my neighbour. It is with these things that communities are built."