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Let’s find our Team GB spirit to win the post-Covid race

Sir Keith Mills

Sir Keith Mills

4 min read

Coming out of the pandemic, our challenge is to now re-discover a sense of solidarity and togetherness. Because the more we’re together, the faster we’ll recover.

With the Euros now entering the home stretch and the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, millions of Britons are either tuning into or looking forward to sport for a bit of relief from the pandemic. 

We could certainly use the uplift across the United Kingdom after a difficult 18 months. Looking back on London 2012, one is struck by our tremendous sense of togetherness. Team GB rallied the entire country, from County Down to John O’Groats to Pembrokeshire and the Kentish coast.

That togetherness and the support it generated was rewarded with fabulous results and a 3rd place finish in the medal table. And the memories! Think of double-gold medallist Mo Farah, our top cycling teams, Jessice Ennis-Hill in athletics, and Anthony Joshua in the ring. Thousands of British children were inspired to compete by the feats they witnessed that summer.

In the five long years since Brexit, it’s hard to recall a time when we’ve felt that same sense of national solidarity. Our appreciation for the heroes of the NHS during the pandemic comes closest, something we also witnessed during Danny Boyle’s tremendous opening ceremony nine years ago. But those moments have been few and far between.

Coming out of the pandemic, our challenge is to now re-discover a sense of solidarity and togetherness. Because the more we’re together, the faster we’ll recover.

Given the challenges we face to build back better, the time has come to once again find that ambition

We’ll need to, because the reality of this pandemic is that it has hit some communities harder than others, and it will be a huge challenge to keep marginalised communities from falling further behind. The task is made harder by the fact that we’re divided politically and addicted to platforms that too often emphasize our differences, not our similarities.

One of the challenges of creating solidarity in modern times is our lack of common spaces and experiences. We’re all so busy leading our lives and consuming our personalised information streams that we can miss the opportunities to unite.

Thankfully, sport is a safe outlet of togetherness, a healthy nationalism in which we’re willing to indulge. Whether it’s Team GB or our national teams in football or rugby, we love to unite behind our athletes. It was the passion and support of people across the country that  drove the London 2012 bid team. We believed the United Kingdom was the best sporting nation and London the best possible host to showcase our ambitions. And we proved it.

Above all, we proved it by backing our athletes. We gave them the platform and they went out and delivered. It’s also perhaps no surprise to find out that contributions to our sporting associations by the National Lottery through good causes peaked in 2012-13, never to again reach those heights. The lesson? If we want to deliver as a nation, we have to deliver the appropriate support.

Given the challenges we face to build back better, the time has come to once again find that ambition, to harness that belief in ourselves, to know that we can go out into the world and achieve great things. And nowhere is there a better place to start than sport. 

The government should therefore be doing all it can to keep our grassroots sport and professional sporting associations going. Whether through funding from good causes generated by the National Lottery or encouraging corporate sponsorship, the dividend from sport is truly a national one.

Sport and the competition it encourages helps to keep us fit, develops teamwork and other skills, and helps to set our sights on distant goals. Put differently, sport gives us purpose. Exercise and competition also do wonders for our mental health, something else that has suffered during this awful pandemic.

Sport also prepares us to live in a competitive world, one where Britain will have to work hard to stake its claim. So let’s find that Team GB spirit and win the post-Covid race.


Sir Keith Mills was Chief Executive of the London 2012 Olympic campaign. He's currently Allwyn's Bid Chairman for the fourth National Lottery Licence Competition.

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