The purple people. They were quite simply one of the big sensations of this London 2012 extravaganza.
Games Makers came in all shapes and sizes, and looked like us; just normal people, but with an extra dash of cheeriness harking back to the days of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, but without his insane accent.
So let’s do something to honour their contribution by placing a statue on that fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square where so many thousands of them gathered this week for the London 2012 parade.
We really should remember those purple volunteers. What they brought with them was a sense of fun, and a rather unbritish ability to talk to strangers and bounce throughout the day.
These were the anti-Paxmans. They didn’t have an ounce of British irony, they weren’t the masters of sarcasm we have come to believe we are and they really, really wanted us all to have a great day.
So all hail the purple people. They have shown us it can be British to be friendly in a public place, and to show a touch of enthusiasm. And it doesn’t have to come with a spoonful of Disneyified slush.
In fact the volunteers have a whole bunch of lessons for us. They have taught us (in case we had forgotten/or never known) that it can be fun to do something for someone else. They have shown us we can enjoy being part of something rather than sniping from the sidelines.
They helped transform London into a place where people do speak to each other on trains and buses. And, yes, there was always a purple person on hand to chat to about the day’s highlights, and share some excitement about the events of the night before.
During London’s summer of loving itself a little bit more than it did before, the purple people were there to help.
And the mayor of London and the city’s burghers should do something to recognize that contribution, by creating a statue to stand on that plinth.
Out on Fleet Street yesterday filming interviews with the public about wanted they wanted to see as a legacy to this heady period, people just wanted to talk about keeping the friendliness and spirit alive. One interviewee wanted less negative stories in the media, another wanted to encourage more volunteering but said: “It’s about us, not the government, making it happen.”
The volunteers we spoke to for the film for the thinktank British Future wanted to keep on volunteering, and were enthusing about their experiences, the people they had worked with and what they might do next. One Games Maker told us at great length about the human resources manager at Stratford who had co-ordinated the volunteers, and told us she would definitely make a great legacy leader.
Then when the floats went by, the athletes were as enthusiastic about waving to their volunteers as the crowds were at waving back, a sign of their recognition for all the efforts of those who wore the purple uniforms.
The volunteers may not have got any jazzy medals to show for it; and I doubt they will be receiving anything in the New Year’s list, so let’s do something creative to show our appreciation.
Boris should unveil a statue of the Games Makers on the fourth plinth before Christmas and invite all of them along to help celebrate; give them a proper party that’s just for them as recognition of just how much they have done to help cheer up this country.
Rachael Jolley is editorial director at thinktank British Future.