A London Olympics to be proud of – and to never forget

London says goodbye to the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: Nick Butcher London says goodbye to the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: Nick Butcher

Monday, August 13, 2012
12:56 AM

So many things were said before the Olympic Games arrived about the size, the impact, what it would bring to this country and what it would mean to those outside it.

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Mo Farah takes 10,000m glory on the greatest of sporting nights for Team GB. Photo: Nick ButcherMo Farah takes 10,000m glory on the greatest of sporting nights for Team GB. Photo: Nick Butcher

Sitting just beyond the rear gates of the world’s greatest sportsday – left on repeat for 16 days – the London Olympics seems too vast to even begin to reflect so soon on what it has brought or the impact it has made.

It seems especially hard to judge from inside the London 2012 bubble. I’ve had the odd trip outside the perimeter fence. Moments where red-faced children aged eight to 70 have puffed out their cheeks after the night of their lives.

I know of people who have seen this country battle through world wars, and who believe for the first time since that the country has felt united. The first time it has been unquestionably OK to wave a Union Flag and celebrate being British, as well as Britishness – whatever that actually means to the respective person. Without fear or consternation.

Those are the memories I suspect people will recall to family, friends, loved ones, strangers and pets across this country for decades to come. All hanging off the peg of an incredible sporting spectacle. A ridiculous sporting success.

Even with my sceptical hack’s hat on, regarding the 16 days of the Olympic competition I’m not abiding cynicism.

I know London cabbies have had a tough time – the push for public transport has left them on the outside.

The Stratford site inconvenienced many – some who were already there, others finding themselves in the way. How much locals will benefit from the global behemoth is still to be discovered, while the sporting legacy compared to the Games’ vast cost will be a battle raged for years to come.

We all know those issues exist – they always do.

But it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. And I think a lot of people fell in love with London’s Olympic Games. Quite possibly with London itself.

I have never known a sporting atmosphere like it. Crowds where not one drop of venom emanated from a lip. Where effort brought reward, no matter how high the bar was set.

And where British sport basked in the sort of incredible success to be forever talked about.

That World Cup win – football or rugby, take your pick – have become the stuff of legend. The London Olympics finished barely hours ago, yet it is already there. Even greater.

Whether the world’s perception of London and Britain has changed as a result of being at the centre of the world for two and a half weeks is a question I can’t answer from a desk in Stratford. But to hazard a guess, I’d find it hard to believe it hasn’t.

The opening ceremony opened eyes when most were closed by the marvel of Beijing. It was momentum that Team GB’s sports stars – after a couple of days of warming up – took on, lifted to a higher place and ensured an entire country arrived there with them.

Every single home competitor was floated into their chosen gladiatorial arena on a tide of euphoria whipped up by their compatriots.

Yes, there were spare seats – a frustration that never went away when thoughts drifted back to those long hours, stuck in front of a computer earlier in the year.

Yet the Games are set to be confirmed as the best attended in history – 7m people taking in an event. Hardly a disaster, even if accompanied with disappointment.

Personally, my list of highlights could run from front to back of this newspaper – so I’d better aim for an abridged version.

With his entire Olympics coming down to one day of Judo competition, seeing North Lopham’s Colin Oates beat second seed Tsagaanbaatar Kashbaatar in his second round match was special.

The barmy reaction of the crowd inside Excel was one thing. The window into a watching world outside a real awakening over what this Games was doing away from the bubble. That moment was priceless – an Olympic moment to eclipse any future heartache.

While Weymouth proved too far away, following Nick Dempsey’s pursuit and eventual extinguish of those Beijing sailing ghosts was immensely satisfying.

And as for the efforts of Lowestoft’s Anthony Ogogo in getting to the Olympics, generating an atmosphere to kill for, and then walking home with a bronze medal after everything he has had to deal with in recent weeks… inspirational barely touches it.

There have been so many tears. Most happy, too many sad. You can’t avoid them. Sometimes you can’t avoid joining them.

And then there was the evening of Saturday, August 4.

At some point during the Games I heard someone ask for their highlight – as long as they didn’t say the night Great Britain produced its greatest sporting success. The night a nation exploded with pride and beamed in wonder.

Maybe it should sit on its own. Maybe Mo Farah’s awe-inspiring effort to win 5,000m gold on the final night of athletics competition topped it. The finalé a nation dreamed of.

But all in, all together, I’m not sure any of that matters. Certainly it doesn’t change what happens next. London 2012 already has its legacy.

A Games when this country was at the epicentre of the world. The eye of its storm. No one could take their eyes of it. No one will forget it.

We will remember these days as well as we can and we will save them a space. Box them up in our minds.

Because we will all be talking about them for generations to come. An Olympics to live for. A generation inspired.

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