Sunday, July 10, 2005


Feeling proud to be British is not very cool, is it? After all, people ‘proud to be British’ are members of the BNP or blue rinse royalists who keep their1981 Charles and Di Evening Standard souvenir pull-out in a special cellophane wrapper. Ain’t they?

This week, I’m proud to be British because London is going to host the 2012 Olympics. I don’t mean to be all Labourite about it, but part of what I loved about the bid is that it was built on a set of new British principles. The whole thing avoided the hackneyed images of Guardsmen in bearskins and the British bobby on the beat. Instead it focussed on our emergence as a progressive regenerated nation and a much more cosmopolitan and internationally integrated country. The masterstroke was Tony Blair’s final address delivered in French; this was Britain at its best.

This change in Britain has been ten years in the making, shifting from a paranoid, clunking, grinding, belching empire obsessed jalopy to a country which has had sustained prosperity with a refreshed culture. For the first time, however, the international community has endorsed and recognised the change.

When Sydney won the Games, Australia’s became the world’s utopian holiday home, but the Australians are still detached from much of the International community (perhaps life is too good in Australia). This is where Britain can prosper, as the barometer of the international community, the model of a modern progressive country. Delivering the Games means delivering the model.

There’s still a lot to do, delivering the Games, of course, but breaking down the barriers between us and Europe and getting out of the pockets of the US. We’ve been given the chance to prove that we can do it. The two weeks of the Games will be the party to celebrate the achievement. I for one, am all for it.

Postscript: this was written on Wednesday when the announcement was made. I’m still proud to be British as a result of the London bombings. Probably more so, the reaction all round has been another example of how strong this country has become. Nobody has made rash accusations, the city hasn’t collapsed and the world continues to turn. Bad things happen and bad people exist, but that doesn’t mean good things should stop and good people should go away. It’s been a great week to be British. Anyone want to join me in a verse of Jerusalem? No? OK then.


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