“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Look mate, this is my country. This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I’m proud. I’m very proud.”
Mo Farah, Olympic 5,000m and 10,000m champion
In August 2011 London and Britain’s claims to cultural inclusiveness and tolerance seemed hollow as racial tension fuelled prolonged rioting and looting that quickly spread well beyond the capital. The influence of social media was seen at its worst, as smartphone messenger services allowed rioters to co-ordinate violence and looting.
Exactly one year later, British Olympic competitors have surfed a wave of national pride that’s completely transcended ethnicity. And the influence of social media?
Ask one of Mo Farah’s Twitter followers. 332,000 and counting
Read one of the 5 million or so “Team GB” tweets that have broadcast positive, inclusive messages to the world.
A dramatic spike on “Super Saturday” August 4th when Team GB took 6 gold medals including three in a remarkable 45 minute spell in the main stadium, saw more tweets being sent in one day than during the entire 2008 Olympics in Beijing. London 2012 is the first truly “digital” Olympics, and it’s surely the most inclusive.
History tells us that nationalistic fervour can lead down the wrong path, but when channelled correctly it can take a sport and a population to rarefied heights. In December 2010 Serbia, a country reborn from the horror and intolerance of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, found a moment of epic achievement with its first Davis Cup win. Winning this equivalent of the tennis World Cup was widely celebrated as the greatest, most unifying achievement in the country’s history. What came next was even more striking. Novak Djokovic, who spearheaded the victory, won every match he played for the next six months. Riding the wave, he emerged as the finest, most indefatigable player on the planet.
Britain’s leading tennis player, Andy Murray, has struggled to harness this same spirit. Until now. During these Olympics, for perhaps the first time in his career, Murray channelled patriotism into performance, and the results were golden. On consecutive days he completely outplayed the two highest ranked players in the world, coincidentally the two men who had previously humbled him in his four losing Grand Slam final appearances. Can he reach higher from here? He certainly has the platform.
London 2012 has given us an impressive list of role models, but Mo Farah remains the symbol not only of achievement but also of inclusiveness. In his moment of triumph he referred to the Mo Farah Foundation charity auction on September 1st which will raise vital funds for some of the most disadvantaged areas of East Africa. This met with no dissent, no “Little Britain” resentment. We’ve got the message.
One more thing. Mo Farah, the pride of Britain, is a practicing Muslim.
Anyone got a problem with that?
No, didn’t think so.
What could this mean for not only cultural but also religious tolerance in the UK? Is this just a “spike” or are we ready to celebrate a new kind of Britishness? The kind that embraces an immigrant and practicing Muslim as a genuine national hero, judging him not on his ethnicity or his religion but on merit.
By the content of his character.
We’ve had a cultural upgrade. Welcome to Great Britain 2.0
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