ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL will echo with an unaccustomed sound on the
Sunday after next: a three-a-side wheelchair-basketball game is to
be played beneath the dome during a service to mark the opening of
the Paralympic Games the following Wednesday.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, will
preside, and the service will begin when Chris Holmes, the blind
Paralympian swimmer, runs in through the Great West doors with a
laurel wreath, and places it on the altar. Baroness Grey-Thompson,
who won 16 Paralympic medals during her sporting career, will give
the address. Lord Coe and Dame Tessa Jowell MP are expected to
On Monday, Bishop Chartres welcomed the "holiday from cynicism"
provided by the Olympic Games, which gave the country "a taste of
what things could be like if we lived all the time as we have
In a message to the 2700 young people who volunteered to be
"ambassadors for Christ" during the Games, Bishop Chartres said:
"Without seeking to undermine the Prime Minister's emphasis on the
virtues of competition, I think that you all deserve a medal."
The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, said
that, besides the "much-needed regeneration" in the East End, it
was possible that the Games would have a "legacy of good will". He
praised the "heroic" contribution of a volunteer manning
Stratford station for eight hours while remaining "unfailingly
cheerful", a 17-year-old "spending her summer welcoming
strangers", and the community gatherings that took place during
the two weeks. "This is an Olympic legacy worth holding on to: the
desire to serve my neighbour, and the desire to celebrate with my
On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics,
Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, said that Britain had "welcomed the
world with the most enormous smile. . . We haven't always had the
reputation for being the friendliest of countries, and I think we
have put that myth to rest in these last two weeks."
The chef de mission for Team GB, Andy Hunt, said that the team,
which finished third in the medal table, had delivered "our
greatest performance of our greatest team at the greatest Olympics
Since the Games began on 27 July, more than 100,000 people have
pledged at least an hour of their time through the Jubilee Hour
intiative. One group determined to ensure that the Games have a
lasting legacy is the Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders, based at the
Ascension, Victoria Docks, who performed at the basketball and
After opening London's first "cheer gym" in 2010, the Eagles now
welcome 1000 people a week, seeking to "provide catalyst
opportunities to help people achieve their full potential". A
film based on the Eagles' story is currently in development.
The chief executive of More than Gold, David Willson, said that
churches had gained "fresh confidence" from the Games through
their involvement in community events, helping to "raise the
profile and credibility of churches". He estimates that 6000
churches were involved in some way. "Youth Cafés" have seen a
particular resurgence, and 200 offered a place for young people to
spend time together during the Games.
This week, 40 church leaders from 12 of the nations where large
sporting events will take place during the next few years gathered
in London to discuss the lessons learned from London 2012. Hosted
by More than Gold, they visited churches, and were briefed on
topics ranging from running community events to finance,
operations, and communications.
Not every event went as planned. Churches were on hand to help
when a community event, the Bayside Festival in Weymouth, went into
liquidation after poor attendance. The Revd Anni Douglas, a retired
priest and co-ordinator of Weymouth and Portland churches' Refresh
2012, said that volunteers were sent to support stallholders,
"listening to them and providing refreshments".