As I watched the closing ceremony on Sunday night, like many I felt a myriad of emotions – pride, jubilance, inspiration. What an amazing performance by the British athletes – 65 medals across such a large array of sports. It really shows the diversity of Great Britain and indeed what makes Britain great.
As the flame was extinguished I also felt sad… sad to say goodbye to all the camaraderie, the British spirit, the warm, fun and inviting hospitality shown by so many. The games makers truly were exceptional. While athletes train for years to make the games, are given guidance, coaching and train relentlessly to perfect their skill, 70,000 volunteers were called upon to literally make the games with little more than a common vision, an understanding in their personal and collective role in making the games great, and a uniform.
What great lessons we as business leaders can learn from this amazing example… create a vision that everyone wants to be part of, explain the importance that each and every individual has in fulfilling the vision, enable people to bring the vision alive and then relentlessly, unwaveringly and wildly cheer them on to achieve.
Everyday British people who gave up their time, stood in the rain, commuted unthinkable hours, forfeited their holiday entitlement all to the delight (and for some the surprise) of the world. They were warm and welcoming, informative, helpful, passionate and in some cases hilarious! Were they trained? Were they given behavioural coaching? Did we ship them in from somewhere else? No, they were always here. The Olympics seemed to lift the lid on their personality and enabled everyday Brits to shine. Be it helping the world navigate their way to the venues, or welcoming people into the park or assisting those with young children – the Games Makers were unwavering in their passion and enthusiasm as they welcomed the world and helped to inspire generations for years to come.
It wasn’t just the Games Makers though. The train conductors seemed to take on board (no pun intended) a sense of humour with comments like, “please remember to take all your belongings and children with you as you leave the train – enjoy the Olympics”. And I will really miss the One Team Travel at Waterloo station with their pink vests, warm smiles and quick one liners like “Welcome to London – the universe has been restored, the jinx is off, Andy Murray has won Gold at Wimbledon!” These people were always there. They have always had it in them, the Games simply gave them a reason to shine.
I know that Britain will continue in this vein for the Paralympics. I am confident that our hospitality and Olympic Spirit will carry on. My real wish though is that every person living in Britain who make up Team GB recognises what an extraordinary role each of us played in hosting the world, in inspiring the next generation, in making Britain Great – ride the crest of this wave of pride, camaraderie and passion for years to come.
By Debra Ward