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Columnists

Year of Jubilee

Lucy Winkett

WinkettIt's going to be a crazy summer in London. The extra bank holidays at the beginning of June to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee give republicans a chance to go away for a few days. The rest of the capital's population will get a chance to brace themselves for the influx of visitors.

There'll be a flotilla down the Thames, a royal carriage procession to St Paul's, and numerous street parties in boroughs across the city. Here in Piccadilly,  the road will be closed for  a 'Big Lunch' with places for 500 people at a time, circus acts, market stalls and opportunities to singalong on the Sunday. Our church will find itself in the middle of what is being billed as the biggest street party in the country.

In a way, the Jubilee weekend will be a logistics warm up for the Olympics and Paralympics. A friend of mine who has recently moved out of London came back to visit. He was eloquent on the subject of how London-centric our media is, and how different, and becoming more different, London is from the rest of the country. When the results from the 2011 census are published, London is expected to be shown to be younger, more ethnically diverse, less married, with more households of one than anywhere else in the UK.  The geographical arguments go on: for friends who live in Cornwall or Newcastle, Birmingham or Cumbria, the Olympics are far, far away. For Londoners who tried and failed to get tickets to see events less than a mile away, the velodrome might as well be in Paris; and business briefings reiterate constantly the 45-minute waits for tube trains, road closures, encouragement to work from home and the impossibility of deliveries getting through.  

The Mayor and the previous Mayor, in a rare show of unity, insist that the economic impact has been spread further than London, with Olympic infrastructure being manufactured and transported from every part of the UK to the Stratford stadium and beyond.  

The Church has, I think, struggled a little to know how to be involved other than see the huge influx of visitors as a chance to evangelise.  The Olympic ideals are essentially Greek and classical rather than Judaeo-Christian but churches have seen this summer's events as an opportunity to use their public space to put up big screens for events and invite people who normally wouldn't come in.

One theme that has been a good one for the Church to join is the ancient tradition that a truce is declared for the duration of the Games. Ecumenical prayers for peace are being held in a show of solidarity and cooperation that chimes in with the principle that to fight one another in the sports stadium is preferable to the battle field.

But for all the ambivalence expressed by many, I for one am excited about witnessing the excellence of Olympic and Paralympic athletes as a joyous expression of what is physically possible for human beings made in the image of God. 

Lucy Winkett