“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.

Say it.

Cheer it.

Tweet it.

We’ve had a cultural upgrade. Welcome to Great Britain 2.0

DAVID JONES

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  • Nigel Streeter

    Twelve months ago almost no one flew the Union Flag because, over several years, it had been allowed to be highjacked by undesirables espousing or practising unpleasant or blatantly discriminatory views. The greatest thing about the Jubilee and Olympics for me is that ordinary British people (and this is coming from a Welshman) have proudly reclaimed that flag as our own. belonging to everyone who has a pride in being from these islands. It is great to see.

  • Even though I am not a ‘Brit’, I believe I can safely say on behalf of the entire world that ‘Team GB’ has been one of the most heart-warming things to have happened to this world this year. Never mind the medals, robots would win them all if they were to play Olympics. It is – as David absolutely nailed it in his writing – truly and only about the human story. A story that appeals to all, and that is seen either as a personal story or a tale of inspiration by one and all.

    Team GB has united a society that OUGHT TO play a massive part in making this world a fair one. And yet, the bigger story is that Team GB has proved it – just in the nick of time – that the world can, after all, bank upon Great Britain in future.

    Well said David. It is not just a sporting story, it IS indeed a cultural story too. And an incredibly inspiring one at that.

    Congratulations to Team GB. My favourite pick of the awesome ‘Brit story’ of the summer? An almost unreal demolition job by Andy Murray in the tennis final.

  • A great article and well written, and I hope Mo Farah receives a knighthood for his efforts. Not only will the Government be recognising a true legend of the athletic world, but this will further enhance the ‘new kind of Britishness’ that you mention and I believe we will see. Maybe even Aiden Burley MP will have changed his stance from the ‘multicural crap’ that he tweeted during the Opening Ceremony.

  • Excellent article. Truly well done, David.

    It is hard to quantify the lasting legacy of the games but are we a nation inspired?
    Without doubt.

    I suppose the question as to whether or not we in Great Britain have had a cultural upgrade- we need to ask ourselves would this have happened in any other country whereby as you say, an immigrant, practising Muslim would be welcomed into the hearts of the nation? I struggle to think of any other.

    Maybe this will be the Olympics greatest legacy-let’s hope so!

  • Adele Marinescu

    Yes your olympics is very inclusive and I also think your paralympics will be very inclusive. David when you worked in Romania your attitude to disabled people was to give them the same exact reaspect as everyone else. I think this is the British attitude and it is a very good influence. I look forward to the paralympics in London where people with disabilities will have respect as athletes.

  • Michael Edwards

    Well stated Dave. I was very struck by the prominence given to culture at these Games, even more so, ironically, than the Beijing Olympics.

  • Gareth Harris

    Hi Dave,

    I thoroughly agree with you comments and like you, have loved the whole atmosphere generated be a wonderful Olympics.

    In fact, I have just watch the closing section of one of BBC 1 programs. It had many images of different athletes from all around the world with the background music of John Lennon’s Imagine. A real ‘goose bump’ moment, one of many over the last two weeks.

    As you say welcome to Great Britain 2.0. I feel this new version is Open Source which allows everyone to use it free of charge. We all need to download this new version, keep it up to date with fixes and patches, develop it further ourselves and then share it with others. No doubt there will be others out to spoil it so best we also regularly do a virus check.

  • Paul Chammings

    I agree with Nigel’s comment. “Proud to be British” has too often meant something far less appealing than the inclusiveness we’re all celebrating this weekend. It’s depressing to see the Union Jack hijacked by fools for whom “Proud to be British” means “Proud to be a bigot”. But that makes it even more satisfying to see the likes of Mo Farah and Christine Ohorogu taking back the flag and flying it for all of us. Nicely judged David, and the best article I’ve read in a very long time.

  • Well said Dave. I too was struck by the prominence given to culture at these Games. I hope you don’t mind me sending out the link on my twitter..

  • Martin Geraghty

    Good piece of work. I heard your broadcast last week on the importance of kids learning foreign languages. If there’s a new Britishness that embraces appreciation of foreign cultures/languages as well as embracing diversity within our own shores then we might be onto something, not only culturally but educationally and economically. Here’s hoping.

  • Hello David

    I am always interested in cultural activity in the UK, and particularly things which make a better future. Good things come when you have role models to show your children which has happened in these Olympics. This interests me as I am the President of ‘The Commonwealth Writers of The Bahamas”, a Non-Profit Organization of Adults and Students in the 700 Islands of The Bahamas. We celebrated eight years on July 2nd 2012 and our Junior Writers’ Program has been very successful. The students are eager to learn and participate in the many activities and it is encouraging to show them that multiculturalism is practiced in countries such as Britain. We want them to reach a wide audience with their writing and we have seen with interest how British athletes have reached a wide audience with their own performance, encouraging respect for all ethnicity.

    Communication can be a problem as some of our students live on islands far away from the city of Nassau so communication is by way of the radio, emails, and the internet. We appreciate parents and teachers support, and with their help our main concentration is on Literacy, History, Culture, Story Telling, Public Speaking and Small Business Strategy.

    Our children have planned successful events to assist with the publishing of their first book, “A Collage of Dreams”. I would encourage British business to see how we prepare our children for the future and how we teach them to show respect for all cultures. You are very welcome to visit our website at http://www.thecommonwealthwritersofthebahamas.com.

    If anyone would like to partner with us, we would appreciate your interest. Partnership and sponsorship from British supporters who respect other cultures and wish to make our childrens’ lives more full would be very welcome. In the meantime I congratulate Britain on an excellent Olympics and thank you for being a good host for our athletes.

  • A well heartfelt written article David. We all need to be reminded that technology should be appreciated as an extension of the human contact and yet never should be used to replace it. My husband and I met with a client at the Rio Hotel and Casino here in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA yesterday and quickly decided to break bread together at one of their extensive buffets. We were greeted by a computer who had replaced the human hostess. Unlike the drive through automated bank machine who had been programmed to at least acknowledge your presence wih a kind good evening, the computer facing us before our meal bypassed such pleasanties as we pushed buttons indicating how many would be eating and inquired as to whether we would be paying by credit or using cash. No wonder the unemployment rate is so high. An emtionless computer asked one final question that I found un-nerving, “Are you a citizen of the USA?” The need for human contact across the globe should remain. Nothing can replace the importance of making eye contact or being greeted by a sincere smile.

    Thank you for reminding us that we are all human under our facades of race, color or relegious or moral beliefs.

  • David,

    There are a lot of politicians out there wishing they could inspire a nation like the sports people who have just completed the excellent Olympics that we have all be witness to these last few weeks.

    The Olympians dedication and belief in themselves to achieve greatness has made them what they are.

    If we look through the ordinary citizens of these British Isles we will see a plethora of examples of driven and inspired people, people who have dreams and hope. People, who create, people who produce, people who go on to achieve their dreams. There is no short cut to these end goals only determination and a plan.

    If the Olympics can inspire a generation to achieve, not just in sports but in commerce and enterprise then the staging of the games in London will have achieved something that few politicians have ever achieved in such a short period.

    Traditionally it is only with adversity and conflict that a nation pulls together and is unified I hope that these Olympics have inspired our nation.

    Kind regards

    Nigel

  • Richard Samuel

    Another great article from the team at Wolfestone and unlike many a blogger a completely accurate description of the GB we live in our greatest fight though is still ahead, to keep this pride and tolerance beyond the greatness of the games.

  • Great article David.

    As a Brit who was born in the UK, I spent from the age of 9 and the following 10 years living and growing up in the Middle East and owe a lot to that region of the World.

    The multicultural tolerance and acceptance that the 2012 games have awoken is long overdue. It is absolutely farcical to think that some people in this country still feel that they “own” or “have a right” to being the only skin colour, religion or moral group of people that live in Britain.

    The Olympic games and the attitude of the British public towards them have made me proud to be British for the first time since I can remember.

    Britain 2.0 here we come!

  • Vanessa Horn

    Hi David,

    First of all I have to agree that this article is an incredibly good one which contains so many important thoughts concerning the coexistence of all the different nations. When has the world ever been unified like during the past two weeks?

    I think it’s a shame that people first have to win an Olympic Gold Medal or that they have to achieve something outstanding before they are accepted in a society. The fact that Mo Farah referred to his foundation in the moment when he won his Gold Medal makes him even more human and estimable for me. Although he lives in Britain, he thinks of his native country and wants to help. I think that’s something not everybody would do in modern times.

    As for the tennis tournament, be assured that I’m very pleased with Andy Murray. What he achieved is a real sensation. Hopefully this was the point where he realised that he is champion enough to win such great matches.

    It was a pleasure to watch the competitions of the Olympic Games in London, and I hope that the atmosphere of the last days will remain some more time.

  • My very first ‘encounter’ with a blog 🙂

    David – very good – like the content.

  • Cathy Marriott

    You refer to 5 million twitter postings and the other number I’m most keenly aware of is the 5 million viewers around the world who watched these Olympics. Maybe we are not yet the multicultural Utopia we would like to be and maybe that is not possible but the fact is that 5 million people have seen a very positive face of Britain. I agree with Rob Turner’s comments and also spent part of my youth in another country. One year ago the face of Britain was ugly with racial rioting. For these Olympics we chose to show the world a better face and if we can choose to do it for two weeks maybe we can choose to keep doing it.

  • Jessica Johnson

    David,

    I think your article is spot on, a very interesting read, with some very pertinent points. The Olympics seem to have prompted a new era of social inclusion, with social media playing a large part in integrating individuals. Long may it continue.

    Jessica

  • Silke Lührmann

    Dein Wort in Gottes Ohr, as we say in Germany – “your word in God’s ear”, I really hope you’re right. It’ll be interesting to see whether Britain can move on from its Olympic euphoria – from embracing a double gold medallist who happens to be an immigrant and a Muslim – to become a truly inclusive society, one that welcomes even those who won’t bring it any particular glory, but who have come here in the hope of a better future or a more dignified life.

  • A very well written and heart felt feel good factor, now that the olympics are over I think that it has created a bit more love and understanding, looking forward to hearing more from you!

  • Louise Denning

    Love this story. I am so proud to be British and so glad that the world has seen what a welcoming and fun nation we are.

  • Amita Sharma

    It was interesting to be in East London during this Olympics and find an army of people eager to be helping me with directions and advice presuming that I was a visitor and not a UK resident. It was a nice experience and very different from some of the previous experience of this area. People showed the best of themselves and the best of their country. When my parents first came here it was okay to call them names in the street and not give them a job. Things can be different and for this event they were very different. Now the TV camera is not on will it stay different?

    I have not always agreed with the things you said on these articles David but this time I do agree and I choose to share your optimistic view. This Olympics made me happy, being in London made me happy and this article made me happy. I think it is the best I ever read.

  • Thank you to everyone for your comments. The concensus seems to be that we can use the events of the past few weeks as a platform for something more lasting. I certainly hope so.

    If it’s true that British people have shown the best of themselves to the world, then that “best” must have been in us all along, waiting to be brought out. You can’t show the world a face you don’t have. If that decency, optimism and character exists in us then we can choose to keep showing it. That isn’t just a more ethical way to live, it’s also far more enjoyable. When people show nostalgia for youth they’re not usually nostalgic for a particular era. They’re more likely to be nostalgic for a version of themselves that was more optimistic, that saw the world as an open book not a closed one. I want to feel that way about myself, and about the country and the world I live in, and I know from the comments above that I’m not alone.

  • The success of the Olympics and Jubilee this year makes me wonder whether there should be more emphasis in our society for cultural celebrations.

    Perhaps with more events that are inclusive to all of society there would be more tolerance and better social integration.

  • Marcella Carter

    The Paralympics has started with such energy that we can hope for the momentum to continue. This is a summer of positives and possibles and you capture this mood.

  • Ahsam Ullah

    This is a rousing notion – as a Muslim UK based I faced a bad reaction in the September 2001 aftermath. People maybe think a Muslim is someone who is against the country? Now maybe they see that a Muslim is someone who loves the country, wins for the country and is held in its warm embrace. It is a beautiful thing and a very good article.

  • Tony Wadley

    I read this article weeks ago and was going to comment but other people said what I wanted to say so I left it. I’m writing now because I’ve just been out to see the athletes parade and it brought the whole positive feeling back. Hit the nail on the head mate.

  • Well said, and as if by magic Andy Murray fulfils the prophecy and is a major winner in USA. So often success is all in the mind, in sport and in business.

  • Ian Hayter

    Tony – couldn’t agree more. The parade was fantastic. I was stuck in a tube on the way there & back but nobody moaned, people were just happy to be part of the thing. This article sums up the whole summer for me.

  • I think it was very good you had a parade of athletes from both Olympics and Parolympics. The British Olympics was inclusive of your different religions and your different athlete types. I was in London at the time of the Olympics and was welcomed so it was a very nice experience. You embraced the world and all parts of your own country also.

  • Martin Geraghty

    With the parade following on from the olympics and paralympics we’ve been treated this summer. Economically it could be a long hard winter for a lot of us but we’ll have great memories to keep us warm.

  • Oleg Pomerantsev

    What I like about your parade is that athletes of the Olympics and Paralympics are happy to be there and share the triumph with the people. Sometimes in sport and in life you have people given accolades and applause who don’t appreciate, they think they are too cool. This example showed a lot of people who were happy and generous in their success.

  • Sheyla Hicks

    But what a shame all this positivity is curtailed by the decision to deport foreign students from London University. I like this article very much and I enjoyed the Olympics but if we are saying London is a place of inclusion it is a sorrow that nobody told the people responsible for this act of injustice to continue to show this spirit.

  • Ian Hayter

    Interesting you made the prediction about Andy Murray’s new found momentum after the Olympics, and just to proves the point he goes and wins the US Open. So in his case at least the feel good factor is continuing with tangible results.

  • Adele Marinescu

    I find it interesting to watch the Rider Cup in America on TV today where the game is golf, supposed to be the most gentlemanly game in the world, and there is “patriotism” which is quite agressive and not sporting. Golf is supposed to be a gentlemans game and people in the USA are supporting in an ungentleman-like way. This summer the UK was host to many Olympic events which are seen as artisan sports, and the support was passionate but in good humour and spirit. This is even more to the credit of your country.

  • Dan Harris

    Great stuff David. Saw this reprinted in News Africa. The euphoria of the summer can’t last forever of course but I find London a more tolerant and happier place this year than it’s been for a long time. Will happily recommend you for translation jobs. More of the same, please!!!!!!

  • Bhawna Rungta

    I live in Stratford and I live through the good times and bad times here. You make me feel like this is my country. This is the best article I ever read.

  • Juliet Loosemore

    Beautifully done and a glimpse of a better, more inclusive country. Not all sporting or cultural events since have lived up to this ideal.
    I write while watching the Wales v England rugby decider and this is a rivalry which diminishes at least one side, possibly both. I agree that we’re stronger together David. Your thoughts on how we can keep the country united culturally?

  • Jo Golley

    Hi David nice article. I’ve read that London is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. As a resident I can’t argue and it’s an aspect of life here that I love. But leaving aside the euphoria of last summer do you believe this diversity makes it a safer happier place or is it a potential powderkeg? I see both the joy and the danger here and I feel torn between the place I want London and the UK to be and the place I fear it might be. Like you I was thrilled by the inclusivenes of 2012 but there is a flipside isn’t there?

  • Martin Clarke

    Nice article and spot on with the predictions. Andy Murray did exactly what you said, fed off the Olympic patriotism and has won 2 slams. Atmosphere on centre court last Sunday remnded me of last summer and then re-reading this brought it all back. Any tips for who’s going to win the Premiership?