London 2012: A global prospect for harmony

Following a year of unrest and change, the final touches are being put on London’s $14.3bn Olympic Park.

London also hosted the Olympics in 1908 and 1948 [GALLO/GETTY]

London, United Kingdom – The year 2011 provided us with a mix of hope and despair. One young Tunisian man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set in motion the Arab Spring when he set himself on fire, following years of abuse and corruption from local officials. His actions captured the mood of a people desperate for change. Human beings often need inspiration to act, and Mohamed Bouazizi set the right example at the right time.

There is now a birth pang going on in this historic part of the world: a world that was frozen in time for decades, if not centuries. Certainly reactionary forces and despots are desperate to maintain the status quo, but even if it still takes years, the avalanche that Bouazizi set-off will roll through the Arab nation.

The other piece of global optimism came as the US withdrew its forces from Iraq (December 31 has now been named as Iraq Day). So ends an illegal and brutal invasion and occupation of a historic land that visited death, destruction and sectarian violence for nearly eight years.

Events closer to home gave us worry, however. The dreadful massacre of 77 young people carried out by far-right extremist Anders Breivik in Norway – in the name of defending Europe from an “ill-defined enemy” – was a wake-up call. One needs to note that, in some parts of the European continent, extreme right-wing parties have even entered government, and many more have deputies in national legislatures, as well as the EU parliament.

Britain’s summer riots (which started in response to the fatal shooting of a north London man by a police officer) brought about widespread disorder, looting and arson in early August. There were, however, some exemplary demonstrations of humanity and sanity in that week: many ordinary mosque-goers in east London, for example, chased off rioters from the streets of Whitechapel.

Economic challenges

However, the Euro-crisis that started with financially weak Greece soon spread to and threatened to topple several other European governments. Europe is facing its gravest crisis since World War II and all countries will have to fight hard to preserve social cohesion within the months to come.

Looking ahead, 2012 will be a year of further challenges. With a troubled global economy and widening distrust among the powerful nations, the spectre of an increased tension between powerful nations is on the horizon. One hopes that political and economic expediency does not bring the world into further chaos and that no nation crosses the limit of international rule in the name of their “national interest”.

The Olympic legacy promise

However, 2012 has the potential for hope too. The forthcoming Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is going to be an historic occasion for not only Britain, but across the Commonwealth. And the London 2012 Games are bringing the world to the UK’s capital – and even in these straightened times will surely ignite the spirit of peace and harmony.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not just about winning: it is about the dedication, inspiration and effort needed to get to the top and to be the best one can be. The British Olympic and Paralympic teams did spectacularly well in the Beijing 2008 Games and we hope they do the same, if not better, this summer.

In spite of a global economic turmoil that hit the British economy hard, the cross-party support for the London 2012 Games and the excitement for it nationwide has been encouraging. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has provided outstanding venues in the Olympic Park – within the budget of $14.3bn and on time. Yes, it’s a huge amount of money in the current economic climate, but the infrastructure that London 2012 has created and the legacy that it is going to leave are major.

London’s legacy

The whole country hopes the London 2012 legacy will leave behind one of our greatest peace-time achievements. The expectation is huge, especially from those of us involved in the organisation. The legacy document says: “After the Games the Olympic Park will be transformed into one of the largest urban parks created in Europe for more than 150 years.”

With new jobs, transport networks, the East End of London regenerated with many new houses, businesses, sports facilities and the legacy of an Olympic village – it is once in a life time event for Britain. We have a proud legacy on which to build: our last London Olympics were in 1908 and 1948 and they both proved successful.

It is now about staging the Games successfully. This is the job of the London 2012 Organising Committee, LOCOG. LOCOG is privately funded; its income is from private sponsors and selling of tickets and other merchandise. Being part of LOCOG since 2006, I have seen how the team has worked very efficiently with the ODA and how it has been able to generate over $3bn and is now ready to put on the two greatest sporting events on earth. This is an amazing story in itself.

The London 2012 team is excited about the fact that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will bring people from across Britain and the world to the fascinating events. London and the rest of the UK will really come alive this summer. Not only can people can look forward to a fantastic six weeks of sport, but we’ve got an opportunity to showcase what London and the rest of the UK has to offer and demonstrate what makes our country so unique.

We also want to make sure that everyone – whether they are an athlete, spectator or visitor – feels welcome here in London. For example, as the Olympic events will fall in the month of Ramadan, Muslim centres and mosques in particular will offer generosity during the fasting month, opening their doors and welcoming athletes, spectators and visitors from around the world who will come to this country.

London is probably the most diverse city on earth and we cannot wait to welcome the world and celebrate the greatest sporting achievements on the planet. Over the next six months, we will be working flat out to deliver a Games the whole of the UK can be proud of.

We want everyone to feel they can play their part in making London 2012 the most successful Games possible. So many in the UK and around the world are already inspired by, benefiting from and delivering London 2012 and we look forward to having many more join the journey over the next few months.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is a parenting consultant (www.amanaparenting.com). He is a founding member of The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO), Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust, and former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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