A free idea for the people at London 2012 to engage with the public and generate positive vibes: a London sports day, held somewhere like Hyde Park. Invite people from all London’s community groups (schools, churches, mosques, clubs and societies; as broad a range as possible) to take part in a big day-long jamboree of sport. The idea would be to try and create an atmosphere somewhere between a school sports day and a country fair, with candy-floss and ice-cream and toffee apples. In fact, if you could get people from London’s many ethnic communities to organise all kinds of different street food, so much the better.
There should be some proper events, but also lots of events like egg-and-spoon, three-legged races, sack races, wheelbarrow races, throwing the cricket ball, wellie wanging, keepy-uppy, a greasy pole, standing long jump, London skittles, tug-of-war, barrel-rolling and so on. Have lots of events going on at the same time so people can wander from one to another. And you should get exactly the same kind of medal for winning the silly events as the serious ones. Or you could have serious events but keep it informal; have an all-comers 100m competition, where anyone who turns up on the day and puts their name down (or as many as they have time for) can compete. If you processed them quickly enough – say heats at five minute intervals, with only the outright winner going through to the next round – you could get through a lot of entrants in a day*. It would be important to have events for both adults and children, but not silly events for children and proper ones for adults; we want to see Seb Coe doing a sack race.
It might also be fun to have Olympians doing demonstration events like archery and judo, but the focus should be on participation by ordinary Londoners. The point would be to celebrate sport for the sheer fun of it and its potential as an inclusive community event. Not too much hard sell about why the Olympics is going to be a good thing; just try to make sure everyone has a great time and that the London 2012 logo is visible on all the leaflets and stands.
*actually, doing the maths suggests this might not be practical. hey-ho. You might be able to do something like an all-comers discus; everyone can queue up to get one throw, the longest over the course of the day wins.