The Olympics and Inclusion

It is the morning after the night before, the morning after the big party at the end of the Olympics. Most of us in Britain are amazed at how well British athletes did in the Games and by our evident ability to deliver a stunning  games. London transport did not embarrass us although G4S certainly did. They had to be rescued by the armed forces who responded to the biggest call on the army in peace time, many servicemen and women had leave cancelled to make the Games a success. G4S’s debacle will be one of the legacies of London 2012.  The 70,000 Olympic Volunteers are the other face of Britain and so many were turned away the unpaid roles oversubscribed many times.
Jacques Rogge pointed to the “intangible” effect of the Games on people, summing up the shift in the national mood by saying that the Games had achieved the impossible by inspiring Londoners to talk to one another on the tube network. Indeed they did. As London returns to work we shall see how long the effect lasts.
Talking with friends and colleagues around the world many described Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony as chaotic. Here in Britain people were relieved that that cliché image of bucolic England passed quickly and delighted that the lightening history of post-industrial Britain which followed celebrated Britain’s diversity and its inclusiveness. It engendered a great deal of pride; 27 million watched the opening ceremony in the UK, in one of those shared experiences which define us. As Sebastian Coe said of the Olympics before the opening: “This is for everyone!” – and it was.
Inclusiveness was a theme of the closing ceremony too. Damien Hirst’s Union Jack stage set for the Olympic closing ceremony embraced the theme of inclusion, the “open arms” of the union flag on the floor welcoming and embracing the athletes and Elbow played Open Arms
Excel which hosted the Olympic boxing and which hosts World Travel Market each November saw women’s boxing accepted as an Olympic sport and medals. Equality and inclusion are two important themes of this year’s WTM World Responsible Tourism Day.
On Tuesday we ask “Is Tourism Inclusive Enough?” The panel is chaired by Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys and chair of the All Party Group on Social Tourism. Some seven million people in the UK are excluded from breaks through lack of money. And over 1.5 million families cannot even afford a day trip. During the panel we’ll be asking what we can learn from around the world about how to open access to holidays and travel to all. You can read more about the Breaks for All Campaign at www.breaksforall.org
As London prepares for the Paralympics, an event which will raise awareness of athletic prowess; 2.1 million tickets have already been sold. The Olympics did for the stereotype of the “stiff upper lip”, or at least suspended it. What will the Paralympics contribute to patronising attitudes which still predominate, best summed up in the infantilising and sexist question “Does he take sugar?” Those Paralympic athletes will run and swim faster, shoot and ride better and lift more than we can dream of. We need a change of attitude towards people with disabilities and in the Thursday morning WTM WRTD panel asks “Is the industry doing enough to cater for people with disabilities?”.  Chaired by Philippe Rossiter, CEO, of the Institute of Hospitality the panel includes David Stratton form Holiday Extras and Spike Marketing and Andrew Stembridge, General Manager of the famous Chewton Glen in the New Forest.
These are important questions, there is an opportunity to begin debating them here – comment below
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