Published on Sunday, 05 August 2012 17:17 Written by Sonia Gable
The Olympic Games are making a lot of people feel good, especially now that Team GB are raking in the medals. Every time I walk through the Olympic Park in Stratford, I see happy people, visitors from all over Britain and the world, enjoying themselves. Janice Turner in yesterday’s Times observed: “Londoners are speaking to each other on buses – like Northerners,” and it’s true, though whether it will last is another matter. I would like to hope so.
Unfortunately some people want to cash in on this mood of positivity. I’ve just received an email from Nick Lowles at Hope Not Hate headed “This is my country” – quoting Mo Farah in reply to a journalist who asked whether he would have preferred to run for Somalia. No problem with that, nor with Lowles’s unoriginal observation that black athletes winning medals for Britain is “a nightmare for every racist out there”.
Even Lowles’s request that readers sign up to HNH’s “‘This is our country’ wall” is not objectionable though pointless: at least he doesn’t say what it’s for other than to show that HNH is capable of attracting 1,520 names within four hours of the email going out to its 160,000-strong mailing list. No doubt more names will flow in as the day goes on.
Where I have a problem is that after you sign up, you get taken to a donation screen. Now a lot of ordinary working people are giving up a lot of their time and money to help make these Games happen, a practical manifestation of how people feel about this “modern, diverse and confident country” as Lowles puts it. I have spoken to numerous Gamesmakers – the unpaid volunteers – who have taken unpaid leave from their work to carry out often unglamorous and tiring, but necessary, tasks to make everything go well, and who keep smiling even after hours of standing in one spot.
Yesterday one Gamesmaker told me he was travelling to Stratford from Southampton for every shift, leaving at 11am and getting home at 1am, and paying his own train fares, as Gamesmakers only get free travel within the London area. Others from outside London are having to pay for local accommodation. And the wonderful performers in the Opening Ceremony that Lowles rightly praised (and no surprise that 95% of those who completed HNH’s survey “recognised their Britain in the ceremony”) were also volunteers, who gave up hours and hours of their time for rehearsals and worked very hard to achieve such a spectacular result.
For HNH to try to make money on the back of all this just doesn’t seem right.