This is an unashamedly personal post which I thought sat better on my (slightly neglected) personal blog than on TechCrunch.
Up until The Olympics in London it’s fair to say “The United Kindom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” (to use our full name) had become a pretty cynical place. The economy is in the doldrums, people and businesses are really hurting day-to-day – and we’d had myriad scandals amongst politicians, the banks and big companies. At the same time we’d started to forget our rich past as innovators – Britain was a pioneer of computers, the jet age, and many other engineering and scientific endeavours. But you often wouldn’t know it looking at our press and media. Regularly, the newspapers enjoy running stories of people being ‘stalked’ on social networks, or bemoan the use of video games. Aside from stumbling across heroes like Sir Jony Ive, they too rarely mention the pioneering efforts of technologists in producing these new platforms, or the creativity of the designers and engineers that go into powering the future. Technology is usually something to be feared, not celebrated.
Coupled with the general fascination of the media with people who usually don’t have a lot to offer other than looking perma-tanned on reality TV or chasing the private lives of footballers, and British society didn’t appear to be that interested in an old fashioned concept: merit and sheer raw talent.
Then something weird happened. The Jubilee celebrations kind’ve got us into the mood. We discovered we had neighbours at street parties. We realised the Queen had in fact done a pretty good job maintaining a kind of ‘Britannica’ stability for 60 years. And then the opening ceremony of the Olympics re-introduced us to ourselves, as quirky, funny, but above all industrious, creative and even – with the addition of Tim Berners Lee – capable of creating such wondrous things as the Web.
The opening ceremony reminded us we can do real things, not just obsess about reality TV and superficial appearances. There were plenty of stars, but no egos on display and all the stars had done something REAL. It’s clearly started a debate about, perhaps, a shift towards basing our national identity on merit rather than superficiality. What better representation of the marriage of the Games with engineering and science was there than the picture of the moon rising beneath Tower Bridge, built by the industrious Victorians?
It won’t be immediate. There remains a problem of access to facilities, that some get and others don’t. There remains the problem that paying for our new future may still be tough.
But, inspired by our amazing athletes, the incredible organisation of the Games (which I think most never expected to be so good), and the way London seems to be running like clockwork all of a sudden, the nation may be starting to come out of it’s collective fug.
Dare we whisper that this could be the the best £9.3bn we ever spent?
Dare we hope that we can be a slightly less cynical nation? Oh, we’ll never lose our cut and thrust, our rapier witty response to some news item or other. That will never leave the national psyche, and nor would we want it to.
But maybe, just maybe, when a young entrepreneur turns around and says “I’m going to do this”; or when a girl in a high school puts down her teenage mag full of reality TV stars and tells her friends she’s going to study engineering or science; or when a kid from the local comprehensive comes up with something mind-blowing; then maybe we won’t be so cynical at that point.
Maybe we will, after all, come to think of failure not as the end of something but the ‘feedback’ we needed to go on and get it right.
If #TeamGB inspires something beyond the laudable goal of getting our kids to run and jump and fence and swim and row, if it inspires us to think beyond sport and into other area of our lives and our society, then the Olympics will indeed have been the moment we were wanting for. The moment to fight back and become Great Britons once again.
We’ve had the inspiration of #TeamGB. Maybe it’s time for #TechGB as well.