The Italians lost their appeal Anthony Joshua won gold. Samantha Murray defied expectations to earn a brilliant Modern Pentathlon silver.Uganda won their first gold since 1972. The Dream Team swotted a spirited Spanish team. This was the Olympics which refused to go out with a whimper.
At about noon , on Wednesday August 1st, I sat in the Olympic Park Live hoping , praying that Helen Glover and Heather Stanning would row to glory in the womens coxless pairs. At that stage Team GB had spluttered along , failed to win a gold , and anxiety had set in. Was this Games going to be one big anticlimax ? The hopes of Mark Cavendish , various swimmers and canoeists already lay in tatters. There was a massive sense of relief when they made it look so easy. Eleven days later , eleven days which have seen unprecedented joy for British sport , it all seems like an eternity ago.
Miserabilist attacks on the games prior to the opening ceremony had been equally vociferous on the left and the right. Now , remarkably the press are totally united in an orgy of congratulations. Today’s papers all carry a front page photograph of a proudly Muslim Somali refugee turned proud Brit , draped in the Union Jack , an image that will have multiculturalists salivating and Aidan Burley scratching his confused little head. My long held belief – that Britain is great because it is the sum of very diverse parts – has had an interesting workout in these last two weeks as the nation has unconditionally celebrated the successes of the fabulously wealthy and the solidly working class , male and gloriously female , white and nonwhite , athletically gifted and skilled controller of a dancing horse. The fact that Carl Hester became Britain’s first openly gay Olympic gold medallist went almost unnoticed in the midst of this relentless British carnival.It has been magical.
In the midst of this we welcomed visitors – the worlds greatest sports stars and their magnificent fans. It was humbling to meet people who had travelled halfway round the world to see their heroes , and I hope that they found London as welcoming a city as I had found it.It was a games of superlative performances and it is hard to pick out one. This is mine – the winning performance in the men’s gymnastics horizontal bars which was truly mindblowing.
The venues were magnificent , the transport held its nerve , the volunteers were inspiring , and the army guys running security relentlessly friendly and upbeat. The realpolitick of monopolising the corporate branding is a sad inevitability , the signs saying “London 2012 are proud to only accept visa” were sour and unnecessary.
As for what happens now I would simply like to echo what has already been said. The regeneration of East London , and the national provision of access to sport must be top priority. One of the greatest things about the past 17 days is that the press have reported on the truly deserving , rather than the wannabes and the vajazzlers. How great it would be for this to continue. And it would be a wonderful legacy if the nation’s media could realise that there are sports other than football. It is extraordinary that in a year where not a single one of the ten Sports Personality of the Year nominees will be footballers , that we still give football a reverence that its incompetent administrators and arrogant practitioners scarcely deserve. In addition I think all Londoners are fascinated to see whether the transport infrastructure works quite so smoothly now that the eyes of the world are no longer watching.
In a 17 days during which I have spent much time weeping with joy , my own personal highlight was the late show at the Comedy Store on “Super Saturday”. The atmosphere was unbelievable, one of utter joy. A day of six gold medals can do that to an audience.As for watching events , I just feel privileged to have seen ,amongst others , Ennis , Bolt , Blake , Mckeever, Ohuorogu, Nicola Adams and the medal ceremonies for Farah and Rutherford.
I was not alive in 1966. The last 17 days are comfortably the greatest achievements of British sport in my lifetime. I have screamed , roared , wept , jumped up and down, punched the air with joy and I have loved every moment. I know many people who have refused to engage with these games for their own reasons. That is of course their own choice. But instead of feeling smug , they should perhaps reflect on the fact that they have sleepwalked their way through the most astonishingly dramatic sport this nation has ever known.