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Animated Edition - Autumn 2005
Leap forward to 2012
Hilary Carty, Director of Culture & Education at London 2012's successful bid team and former Arts Council Director of Dance (1994-2003) explores the unifying power of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and the importance of 'selecting in' to the cultural journey
In 2012 the UK will welcome the world to our shores - some arriving in person to experience the sights and sounds, others interacting through the digital media that will no doubt pervade our lives and shrink our world, even whilst it expands our networks. And the world will truly be here, for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games offer a rare opportunity for the eyes of a diversity of nations to focus on a single entity and celebrate the extraordinary endeavours of individuals and nations.

The Games offer so many moments of pride. Beyond the passionate adorning of the athletes as they drape their flags around their shoulders is the collective cloak of nationhood wrapping around disparate individuals, binding them together in a shared celebration that belies difference and unfamiliarity. I am reminded of the 6th July when my phone rang persistently in celebration and surprise - "I don't even like sport' they chimed "Why am I happy?" "It's the power of the Olympics" I smiled in reply. This world phenomenon takes us to a totally new arena where we sit with 'strangers' and discover shared aspirations, knocking down like high hurdles the silos and barriers that entered the room with enticing new partnerships and networks. For many the Olympics offers a 'neutral' space and a place to dream - where the 'joy found in effort' that inspired Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympic Movement, is translated by each in her own way, for her own field. In dance we share that joy found in effort - we know well the inspiration and motivation to stretch higher, reach further and stay longer at the peak of a glorious leap. Dance is physically and creatively well placed to seize the opportunity of the Olympics leaping forward to 2012.

The Games in London will give us a moment to beam a large spotlight on culture - reflecting de Coubertin's keen aspiration for a celebration to unite sport with the arts and education: 'A final characteristic of the Olympics must be beauty, through the participation in the Games of the arts and thought. For surely, one cannot celebrate the festival of the human springtime without inviting the mind to it.' (1) With its wealth of arts and cultural industries and its dynamic creative strength, the UK is surely the place to amplify this vision.

Many start their cultural journey with the Opening Ceremony. And what a way to begin. These dazzling nights of spectacle have spawned a new community of artists creating work of gigantic proportions. They celebrate a City and capture imaginations worldwide. What an opportunity for our UK artists and technicians to conjure and surprise. What a legacy to embed in the skill-set of the UK. Can London's celebrations captivate this world audience and start a journey of exploration with the wider cultural programme - the World Cultural Fair which asks the athletes from every nation to bring their cultures with them and re-imagine the Pavilions of the Great Exhibition in 1851; the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies - huge opportunities to share the UK's leading expertise and talent in the field of disabled and integrated arts; or the World Festival of Youth Culture along the bridges and waterways of a rejuvenated East London, showing the variety of ways young people live and respond to this dynamic urban landscape.

An eclectic cultural landscape is drawn in The Wedding of Sport and Art, London 2012's manifesto of ideas for its culture and education programme. On the front cover the fleetness of Olympic silver medallist Amir Khan is captured mid twirl by the keen lens of photographer Sam Taylor Wood. Browse the colourful pages and uncover more of the cultural story planned for 2012 - the Olympic FriendShip joining nations in an epic international cultural journey; the Olympic Carnival profiling street celebrations and community festivals; the Disabled Artists & Paralympians World Congress or the London Olympic Institute exploring as a legacy of the Games the impact of sport, culture and education on community health, citizenship, the environment and health.

London's proposals champion the next generation and prioritise legacy. Culture plays a critical role in delivering on that promise for we have the shining examples of Birmingham and Gateshead to remind us that successful regeneration of communities and landscapes have culture high on the agenda. Barcelona was transformed after the Games in 1992 and at the heart of that transformation was a new appreciation of culture - a renewed confidence in its unique architecture and its distinct Catalan identity; its bold invitation to the world to come to Barcelona and debate everything from world peace to science and technology in the 2004 Forum. It is a powerful legacy and one that the UK must emulate in both the physical and emotional transformation of our capital and beyond.

The culture and education proposals speak of excellence, creativity, diversity and internationalism - all topics with which we grapple at this time of huge global change; as familiar borders, barriers and frameworks constantly shift and re-align. The challenge of planning in this changing context is a real one - it brings uncertainty and risk as well as opportunities and new alliances. Hold fast to the knowledge that we have done this before - the contemporary diversity of the UK has been forged by centuries of migration and mingling, exposure and exchange. The global arena of the Olympics offers a great opportunity for us to share this history with the world.

Winning the right to host the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games has proved a great catalyst across the UK and the enthusiasm and excitement is palpable. Most notably amongst our younger generations for whom the seven-year planning frame is real and immediate. They 'get it' and their hopes of being an athlete, a journalist, an artist in the Opening Ceremony or a volunteer, are real and reachable. Graspable too for the communities of artists, animateurs and activists who will play a key role in spreading participation in the Games across the UK as a whole. To keep the communication open London 2012 Culture, Ceremonies & Education Team is delivering a series of forums - so that individuals and groups who are not linked into currently established networks can access key information. Be a part of the journey by:
  • logging on to the website to get regular updates of general and cultural programme info - over time this will include specific information on the development and delivery of the cultural proposals
  • linking with local cultural networks and asking "How are we responding to the Olympics?"
  • creating new communities of interest across local, national and international borders in the build up to the Games
  • offering creative solutions to local volunteering networks - so that the creative agenda forms an early part of volunteer programmes.
The culture and education proposals aim to be vibrant and inclusive. "Select in" and be part of the amazing cultural journey to 2012. Help shape the landscape for future generations and shift the psyche of our nation to a new level of confidence, with enhanced civic pride and self-belief - for such is the power of the Olympics.

For more information and contacts visit

1. De Coubertin, P. (1863-1937) in The Wedding of Sport and Art London 2012 Olympic Manifesto Bid. London 2012 Candidate City

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Animated: Autumn 2005