These are our Games too

Posted by Shami Chakrabarti on 27 July 2012

Tonight I had the honour of taking part in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. This fantastic spectacle, watched by millions, begins a sporting extravaganza involving athletes from across the globe. Competitors from over two 200 countries will strive to take home medals and pride in the pursuit and achievement of excellence at the global level.

Historically, the Olympics have not just been a celebration of sport and they have borne witness to both tragedy and joy. The Games have also been the setting for moments of great political significance and a snapshot of the universal struggle for rights and freedoms. Jesse Owens' triumph over Nazi propaganda in 1936 Berlin; the black power salute protest of the 1968 Mexico Games; the boycott duel between the USA and Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In the run-up to the ceremony there have been concerns about how organisers and authorities have prepared for the Games – and how they will manage them once begun. There have been worries about impediments to peaceful protest by the authorities, mass surveillance, some corporate sponsors and the privatisation of security. Liberty has warned of the impact on civil liberties and urged a common-sense and light touch approach to policing and the enforcement of Olympic regulations.

And yet, keeping a watchful eye does not mean that we do not also revel in the excitement of the Games. Internationalism is not just for big business and governments and the Olympics are about more than commercial branding. These are our Games.

We should celebrate the Olympic values of international friendship, solidarity and fair play and the broader human optimism they inspire. By including Liberty and other human rights campaigners in tonight's opening ceremony, the organisers set a challenge and made a statement for the Games, our country and the world.