The creation of a charity, from the very beginning.
Prior to the Olympic torch arriving in Sheffield, I was the equivalent
of the Grinch at Christmas. I did not want the word ‘Olympic’ uttered
to me. The reason being that the Olympics is costing Britain over £10billion.
And yet at the same time we have approximately 75,000 young people classed as homeless in this country; 5.9 million homes in England fail to meet the Government’s Decent Home Standard; more than one million children live in overcrowded housing; and 3.6 million children in the United Kingdom live in poverty after their housing costs have been paid.
Poverty is destroying British Citizen’s lives and yet it exists in a
country where £1.9million is spent on a single fireworks display.
On the day the torch was passing through Sheffield, I was on a bus
with Jane*, a young girl I work with. Jane lives in a very deprived
area of Sheffield and both her parents are on minimum wage. She is
vibrant, funny and intelligent.
As we drove through the city we saw thousands of people lining the
streets, ready to welcome the torch. As Jane commented, it was pretty
odd knowing that all these people were queuing to see a flame: ‘If
they want to see fire they should come down our local and watch ‘Jimmy
the Fire-Setter’ burn it down… every week’.
As the bus passed row upon row of people, Jane continued to tell me
how much she wanted to go to University. She spoke of it without
expectation but also without despair; Jane seemed to accept, almost
without emotion, that girls from her area don’t go to University. Even
if Jane could get a student loan, her Mum needs her at home to look
after her siblings as child care is simply not an affordable option.
Even if childcare was an option, aspiration and ambition is viewed as
‘idealistic’ by her Dad.
Poverty doesn’t just eat at an individual’s resources; it burrows
itself in to families and defines whole communities.
The crowds for the torch stretched for miles and holding back these
crowds were railings. I could not help but think to myself how much
all these railings would have cost. And how much the Olympic stage,
set up in the city centre, cost. And how much it cost to hire Keith
Lemon to come and be ‘kooky’ on that stage. Probably enough to cover
Jane’s University fees and her Mum’s child care.
But like I said, poverty means more than a lack of finances.
And this is where the Olympics is a good thing.
Now I’m not going to lie; the thing that changed my view on the
Olympics wasn’t the parade of hundreds of countries around the world,
nor the symbolic uniting of those countries in a stunning 50ft torch.
It wasn’t watching Kirani James win the first ever medal for Grenada.
Nope. My initial softening came when Kenneth Brannagh stepped out at
the Opening Ceremony as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. My attendance at
school wasn’t exemplary, to say the least, but if there is one thing I
can guarantee, it’s that I did not miss a single English lesson where
a Shakespeare film was shown with Kenneth in. And my English teacher
rather cunningly knew this too.
The man makes me melt.
As soon as he strode proudly, elegantly, courageously (KENNETH, I LOVE
YOU) in to the centre, I knew that I was going to have to take back at
least 50% of the anti-Olympic rants I’d had over the last month.
However, as the Games have progressed, I am happier and happier to do
so. The Olympics provides inspiration on an almost unparalleled level.
This is the first time every country in the Olympics has a female
representative. If that doesn’t make you want to blast out Spice Girls
on full volume and pull your best (and well-practiced) ‘Girl Power’
pose, then I don’t know what does.
There is something unavoidably heart-warming about watching athletes, such as Greg Rutherford, achieve something they have “dreamed of (their) whole life” after years of work and nearly quitting. After the medal ceremony, Greg stated that ” I’ve got a pretty good life, I cannot lie. Everybody has worked so hard for me”. So many people have worked extraordinarily hard to help Greg achieve his dream.
My issue is not that I believe athletes don’t deserve to have people invest in and celebrate their dreams and abilities. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. My issue is that I want the same investment to exist for all people, whatever their dream or talent be.
I work as a Social Worker because I want people to be the best and
happiest they can be. Of course, a lot of the money spent on the celebrations could have been more carefully thought-through. (A stage for Keith Lemon is NEVER something I am happy to see money spent on). However, what the Olympics has made me realize is that begrudging those that are happy and successful does not bring about equality any faster. Rather, I have begun to take great comfort over the last few days, sitting back in front of the television, feet up, cuppa in hand, knowing that anything is possible.
And I think that for these few weeks, young people, like Jane, around Britain will be sitting at home realizing the same thing and knowing that they can go to University.