For the last three months I have heard three words, one phrase, that will stick in my head probably for the rest of my life.
Inspire a generation.
2012 was when the world had its eyes on my city. My hometown was electric and you could feel it everywhere. From signs on railings to the Olympic Lanes on the roads. The 5 rings were everywhere. But those three words. They’re just not going to leave me. Which is probably exactly what Lord Coe and the politicians of Westminster will be Cheshire cat grinning about. But it doesn’t make me happy. In fact, it makes me quite the opposite.
What does it say about us though? That it takes one sporting event to really get us excited? That’ll change our lives? What does it say about us? Is that what the government think of my generation?
Please don’t get me wrong, I am a sports fanatic. I can’t play enough hockey to quench my thirst. My following of football can probably be described as obsessive. I watch enough rugby union to know the difference between the football offside rule and the rugby offside rule. I’m not just limited to British sports either, with an absolute love of American Football and ice hockey. Not to mention my fandom of basketball and baseball too. I remember being awake at silly o’clock in the morning in 2008 watching Becky Addlington storm home with her first gold. I had to stifle my screams as she swam the last five metres and had to be silent when the tears slowly fell in celebration of not only her feat but also that it was a gold for Great Britain. I always supported London 2012 and recall being one of very few in my GCSE maths class just after we won the bid to support it. Even amongst 14 year old girls, it was a hard enough battle to get people to be excited for it. But I was one of them, an already established Olympics (both summer and winter) fan.
But my problem here isn’t with the Olympics itself. Far from it. But that slogan. ‘Inspire a generation’.
When I think of myself not as a single person, but as a generation, it’s so hard to become inspired. The generation that the media have so kindly labelled as binge drinking, promiscuous lay-abouts. We were too young to experience the economic boom of the 1990’s. We didn’t really grasp the fresh wave that New Labour came with, hand in hand with the democratic demi-god state that was Bill Clinton’s America. Then again, we’re too old to really know the impact of what goes on in class rooms today, and be in that ‘iGeneration’ that the children of the 21st century have been dubbed. But what does it say about us? That we need sport to be the defining moment of our generation? Do people believe our generation needs inspiring? And therefore we need sport to inspire us to do something? Or worse, that our generation needs inspiring because our fight is against being inactive.
No, we’re not Generation X or the MTV Generation. Are we Generation Y or Generation Z? All the sociologists and media are quick to slap a label on people. I was born when grunge threw a dirty plaid shirt at the world. At a time when there are fights for rights to still be fought (global human rights, gay rights, disabled rights, women’s rights), my generation are stuck. Everything has been done before. The Baby Boomers generation blazed the trail with the Civil Rights in the 60’s. They were at the front of the fight again when Harvey Milk fought so hard for his position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the late 70’s. Before them all, the Suffragettes had been the ultimate rights group, securing the vote for women. What is there for my generation to do?
Now we’re too old for any of us to make any impact on the sporting sphere of the world. Knowing that there are people who are younger than me walking around with a gold medal is pretty down heartening. Knowing that by my age, people would be established in the world of sport if they were going to be the biggest thing.
But also what gets me is that the government have been quick to set the ‘Inspire a generation’ motto but have overlooked my generation. My generation that has been hit with such bad employment levels. We can’t get a job and there are no opportunities. Whilst “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” has pretty much always been a factor in life, it has never been as obvious as now. If you don’t have contacts, you’re going nowhere. Want to work in politics? Not unless you have an uncle who is a secretary for a minister! Want to become involved in film making? You’ll need famous friends for that! To inspire my generation, we need to be given a chance. A chance to make a name for ourselves with the skills and personality we have, not the name of some distant acquaintance.
We are so laid back that we learn about the plight of people our age who walked alongside the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst, Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk and we can’t connect to them. We can’t think of ourselves as revolutionaries. The Students of Paris would laugh at my generation’s lacklustre approach to life and that our fight is against being fat. Yes, right now it isn’t the best of times. High unemployment, high inflation, the cost of living is sky high. But we only have ourselves to blame. We are lazy. There are still fights to be fought. Rights to be won. And yet we sit and watch the world go by with the old ignorance of “well, if it isn’t harming us…”
In my opinion, a generation is made by something that defines it. The Baby Boomers had the civil and gay rights movement. Generation X? In my view it goes hand in hand with MTV and grunge. Generation Y through to Z are yet to have substance and their successors are already the iGeneration. Are Generations Y and Z (the generations that I apparently am a part of) the generation that got inspired by the Olympics? The Generations that the government had so little faith in that we were lumbered with just carrying the legacy of the Olympics? Is obesity the fight of this generation? Before it was racism, homophobia, sexism, elitism. Those were the fights of substance. Now we’re fighting obesity like it wasn’t something we shouldn’t be blaming ourselves for already.
Whilst the Olympics have inspired perhaps the next generation, my generation is stuck in a rut. A horrible rut that we can’t get out of any time soon unless we take a chance. When I say we, I mean my generation – taking a chance on things to fight for, things to be passionate about. I mean the governments of the world – give us a chance to prove ourselves and let us be heard without having any contact. But mostly, as an individual, I don’t want my generation to be defined as the one of a sporting event.