Whether you like it or not, you are now a symbol of volunteering, a community spirited nation – a ‘big society’ if you will.
If you mix volunteering with community spirit and sprinkle on top some hideous corporate sponsorships, what do you get? Games Makers, and according to Cameron, “[an] expression of the Big Society in action”. McDonald’s helpfully pointed out that we are all (even the helpless small baby staring blankly) ‘making the Games’ – we are all the Big society.
Nearly a quarter of a million of us applied to volunteer at the Olympics (240,000). Out of these 70,000 were selected based on criteria such as a ‘can do attitude’ and being ‘inspirational’ (I wish I had applied now just to have been in the interview, “So Steve, can you give me an example of when you have been inspirational?”).
I wish to take nothing away from the Games Makers though; they have been a great success. I take my hat off to you all. What I wish to raise here is what, if anything, Games Makers have to do with Dave and Ronald.
Like the weather and other events that have got literally nothing to with politics, politicians have been falling over themselves to associate themselves with this unprecedented wave of positivity associated with the Olympics. Cameron cannot help himself but to talk about the Big Society. Before the Games even started he commented, “these Games are the biggest and most tangible expression of the Big Society in action”.
I don’t want to poop on Cameron’s party here, but is it not possible they volunteered because they like sport and/or wanted to be involved in a once in a life time event like the Olympics? Just wanting a little bit of fun without much commitment?
Sunny Hundal the Guardian columnist, got a wee bit of a Conservative backlash earlier when he tweeted, “Chances of Olympics volunteers becoming school sports volunteers wildly optimistic. Most did it to get into watch Olympics”. Ooh the skeptic. It makes sense though, doesn’t it?
40% of those who applied to be volunteers had never volunteered before. Something about the Olympics made people give up their time in a way that the WI, Amnesty International or their local youth club didn’t.
Conservative Dan Hannan MEP however was having none of it. He tweeted back to Sunny in a flash saying, “The ones I’ve spoken to were doing it from sheer decency”.
It rather begs the question though, if this ‘sense of decency’ was enough to inspire them to volunteer why had it never ‘inspired’ them in the past. There is no shortage of very ‘decent’ organisations that are desperate for ‘decent’ volunteers.
Like a one night stand the appeal of the volunteering at the Olympics is simple, it is fun and lacks any real long-term commitment.
Without taking anything away from the volunteers, they are certainly not the foundation building blocks for which to construct long-term social projects. They are there for a quick slap and tickle and then they will be back to their 9-5.
In short Dave, I am afraid the success of the Game Makers has nothing to do with your conceptual Big Society and it has everything to do with the excitement of hosting one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
Oh and Ronald, you and your friends over at Big Mac HQ, you have nothing to do with sporting excellence either. You’re as transparent as the grease soaked wrapper of one of your burgers.