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And Now Olympic Memories

WOW! Did we really do that………?

 

Did we really see all that...............?

I’m a sarcastic, curmudgeonly old sod at the best of times, but even I was blown away as, day after day the London Games unfolded. Along, apparently, with half the world I was captivated by the opening ceremony, but this merely set the standard for what was to come, this was just the start; Britain would shine, not just as our athletes began to amass medals, but more as an example of how a world event of this stature should be; welcoming, friendly and inclusive, while being fair, efficient, spectacular and born of the place – in this case London.

The settings for so many of the events were so imaginative, so iconic in their sense of place and heritage, that they had a dreamlike quality – is this really Beach Volleyball in Horse Guards Parade, Archery at Lords, Dressage in front of Greenwich Hospital or Swimming in the Serpentine? Am I really in a race running down The Mall past Buckingham Palace and on past The Tower of London? The world’s favourite metropolis opened its streets, monuments and palaces to play a genial host to the world, right there, smack bang in the middle of the city. This really was London’s Olympics and London loved it; England loved it; Great Britain loved it, while making space for a few million guests as they stood 12 deep and cheered and cheered.

This was where London 2012 differed from previous games, where soulless edifices constructed 50 miles outside host cities served to dissipate the crowd and with it, the cohesion and warmth of the whole event. London largely contained their games within its boundary, centred on the Olympic Park, but weaving the city’s historic venues seamlessly into a cohesive whole, with only the necessarily distant Weymouth excellently hosting the sailing. So as I watched last night’s extraordinary finale, which almost matched the opening ceremony, I was gratified to see that those individual values of this quirky, loveable, inexplicable country of ours were much in evidence. We love a good time, we love to laugh and cheer and we also love to shed an embarrassed tear at greatness and disaster in equal measure.

We have seen amazing feats of endeavour these past two weeks, and so much has been written and broadcast on our British athletic heroes and heroines of the games I’ll not try to add to these tributes, except to note that as I watched TV interviews each morning, of the previous day’s medallists, I was impressed particularly by our British girls; what a set of vivacious self-deprecating, beautiful and determined young ladies they were. Oh how we need such icons as role models for our listless, under-active and over-protected children, replacing the boorish laddettes personified by the dreadful Katie Price and Jodie Marsh. Let’s hope the gutter press fails to draw our sports heroines into their mindless web. These girls, and indeed boys, have shown what this country needs to succeed in all walks of life, and I’ll support any initiative they see fit to patronise in promoting a greater Great Britain.

And it wasn’t just us saying how much we enjoyed the Games; here are just a few comments from the international press:

 The Australian, Peter Wilson: British take gold as best Olympics Games hosts

"It is one thing for the British to thrash Australia in the medals table of the London Olympics. But now the Games are over, it is just as clear they have knocked Sydney off its pedestal as the best host of a modern Olympic Games. As awful as it is to admit, London 2012 was bigger, slicker, almost as friendly and more thoughtfully planned than Sydney in terms of the legacy it will leave the host city... It is, I'm afraid to say, bronze for Barcelona, silver for Sydney, and gold for London."

New York Times, USA, David Segal: Britain Takes a Final Bow

 "One of the great stories of these Olympics was the effect they had on England itself. Triumphalism does not come naturally to this country, where the cultural stock in trade has long been dignity in defeat. This, let’s not forget, is a nation where one of the most beloved poems is Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” which valorizes a military rout at the hands of the Russians. The Games have hit this country like an extra-strength dose of a mood-enhancing drug."

The Globe and Mail, Canada, Doug Saunders: Olympic elation envelops host nation

 "On a patch of land scarred black by the industrial revolution, bombed flat by Hitler and denuded by decades of poverty and neglect, a country with little money and less self-confidence held the world’s most expensive and difficult sporting event. And when it ended in a spectacle of pomp-free pop and quintessentially East London polyglot pageantry, there was a very surprising national sense of elation."

The Telegraph, UK, Paul Hayward: London's brilliant, beautiful Games were the very best of British - it enthralled us all.

“These Games will be remembered as a triumph for warmth, civility, excellence and enthusiasm - hosted by a nation in love with sport, and happy in its own skin. In the perfect union of performers and crowd everyone knew these were special days. They felt the spirit and energy of a country that had formed a low opinion of itself in many respects, through MPs expenses, banking scandals, riots in Britain’s cities only a year ago, the Leveson Inquiry and stark disparities between rich and poor. The notion that two weeks of sublime and well-organised sport can wipe away those ailments is supremely childish. Yet if Britain needed to recover something that was perhaps hidden but always there, these Olympics performed a mighty public service, beyond the parade of GB golds and uplifting endeavour. The perfect Games are those in which athletes and spectators inspire one another, pushing each other to new heights of enthusiasm, reminding us all that sport is as much a feeling as it is a set of results.

And the feeling in Britain was one of pride. When could it be said for sure that London 2012 would be remembered as a honking success? We all have our answers. The biggest vote may fall in favour of the first morning of track and field, in a £547 million stadium that had been the subject of ugly wrangling over its future even before a hammer had been thrown. On that morning, 80,000 faces were turned to the sun, the stands shook with noise and the British displayed their unconditional love for sport, not with jingoism but fierce support for their own athletes and respect for everyone else’s.”

So it’s back to work now, inspired I hope by our British pride, but also by the warmth and thanks of a few million visitors who came and looked and liked what they saw. You are ALL very welcome……… Anytime!

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