London 2012: Seven Years Ago

When I look back through my photographs from Summer 2012 one event dominates - unusually for me it doesn't involve time out and about with a camera on a remote island - it was the London Olympics.  And I still get emotional thinking about it.

Way back in 2012 the UK felt like a welcoming, confident, positive, multicultural, inclusive place - the 2012 Olympics was the platform to allow us to celebrate that along with welcome visitors from pretty much every country.

My Olympics started with watching the archery at Lords and the cycling road races in Surrey, and ended with two days on the Olympic Park watching water polo and diving.  My feeling at the time was that this was a special time in the UK's history - the usual busy and indifferent London was transformed into a city filled with smiles and a warm welcome.

My diary at the time says 

28th July 2012.  Today was a wonderful day to be in London. The city was heaving with tourists, supporters, athletes and volunteer guides, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face and the weather was wonderful too. Any Olympic cynicism I might have had has been swept away. Welcome to London 2012.

29th July 2012.  Although the weather didn't match up to yesterday, the crowds were just as good-humoured.

5th August 2012.  Absolutely bubbling with Olympics enthusiasm. Really didn't expect the feel-good factor to be quite so strong.  Am getting excited about getting into the Olympic Park tomorrow - and that's to see a Water Polo group match (that doesn't include TeamGB).

6th August 2012. Spent today around the London 2012 Olympic Park - fantastic atmosphere, huge numbers of people, lovely atmosphere.

10th August 2012. Wonderful day in the Olympic Park again - this time to watch the preliminary stages of the mens 10 metre diving. Also made sure there was lots of time to just soak up the amazing atmosphere in the Park.  The whole Olympics experience over the last couple of weeks has completely blown me away - it's just been so much better than I could ever have imagined. The organisers have thrown an amazing party that everyone has wanted to join in with, the GamesMakers have been fantastic and TeamGB have been awesome.  And of course the Stadium was lit up in red, white and blue when we left the Aquatic Centre.

Part of my emotion looking back is despair at how far we (and very particularly England) has fallen since that summer.

Where we were "welcoming, confident, positive, multicultural, inclusive", England is now hostile, scared, negative, isolationist and exclusive.  Other people have posted much more elegant statements of this over the last couple of days but I was struck by just how positive my diary entries were at the time.

The London Olympics could, and indeed should, have been a stepping stone to allow us to become an even better place instead it's going to appear in the history books as a missed opportunity.

Yes, we threw one hell of a party for 17 days that glorious summer - but at this point I don't see how the UK (assuming it continues to exist) can ever regain the place we had in the world just seven years ago.

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