Bishop hails Olympics ‘goodwill legacy’

After last night’s spectacular closing ceremony, the Bishop of Chelmsford has praised the Olympic Games for the positive impact they are having on community life.

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell welcomed the way in which the Olympics and the Paralympics, due to start in a few weeks, had regenerated a deprived area of East London.

“The vast and impressive buildings of the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village will indeed bring much needed regeneration. But I am beginning to wonder whether the Olympic legacy may bring a further change as well: a legacy of good will,” he said.

The bishop praised the “heroic” achievements of the Olympics volunteers who helped to make the Games happen.

He said: “Here is a big society worked out in the astonishing little details of selfless charity and kindness. And there are indeed hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. And the example of their simple, cheerful goodness is very inspiring.

“Last week I also met a 17 year old who is on duty at Stansted airport every other morning. There is nothing very glamorous about this. But she wanted to be part of it, part of something bigger than herself. She wanted to do something. So she is spending her summer welcoming strangers.”

Bishop Cottrell said many people had rediscovered a desire to celebrate with their neighbours through the Games.

He praised the efforts of churches that staged free community events, including a live screening of the opening ceremony in a Dagenham park that was attended by an estimated 10,000 people.

“We have expressed our own need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It all just seemed too important, to special to watch on our own,” he said.

While the Games were a huge logistical exercise, the bishop said they might also have been one of the “largest outpourings of good will”.

“This is an Olympic legacy worth holding onto: the desire to serve my neighbour and the desire to celebrate with my neighbour. It is with these things that communities are built,” he said.