What a glorious week it’s been for Team GB. So many medals, so much history made, so many legends.
And I’ve also been struck by the grace of many winners and indeed losers. For my money, however, the true heroes have been the unpaid volunteers. Their cheery, well-wishing demeanour has sent out a fantastic message not only to the tourists but to UK citizens. It’s infectious, and one would like to think that such hospitality can be extended beyond the life of the Games.
It’s certainly in marked contrast with the scenes from last year’s riots. One can hardly imagine how the same country could be capable of adopting such different attitudes to life and people and business.
Talking of riots, this week we report on the DCLG’s decision not to relax the planning permission rules on security shutters. And I do understand its viewpoint: we don’t want our high streets to look like war zones at night. Equally, however, local planning authorities must respond quickly to reasoned requests. I’m also pleased to see, following my column on this topic last August, initiatives such as Ogilvy & Mather’s to arrest the minds of angry and disaffected youth by painting images of babies on security shutters.
I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t say with certainty that such subliminal measures would have the desired effect of preventing a riot in the future but I do think there’s an opportunity to use shutters in a more creative manner, whether to calm people down, or simply to help convey the character of a shop.
As the Olympics come to a close, it might be tempting for David Cameron to claim the behaviour of the unpaid volunteers as the Big Society in action. He should be wary of doing so. This was no accident. It was goodwill by design. And a timely reminder as the economy remains in the doldrums of the responsibility that government and businesses need to show towards citizens.
While the High Court this week rejected suggestions that the Workfare scheme amounts to slave labour, we cannot afford to exploit willing volunteers.