We had a great day at the Paralympics – long may that feeling continue

At the last knockings, just before they locked the gates on the Olympic Park, we managed to get there.

The London 2012 site became something more than a by now familiar view from the train. For one glorious day we were a part of something quite special.

I'll admit it; the ever-present cynic in me hadn't been prepared for anything quite like it. Indeed, such has been the unfettered success of the Olympics and Paralympics, it is said that even the cesspit of scepticism to which the social network Twitter plays host suspended hostilities for the duration.

The friendly greetings that began at Stratford International (that bit, as in Norwich International airport, always makes me smile) and endured the whole day long the efficient but never over-regimented organisation; directions explained, guide maps gifted, beer dispensed with genuine have-a-lovely-day-and-meaning-it smiles. The whole damn nine yards of good humour; seething cosmopolitan humanity having a good time and going out of its way to make sure it didn't spoil anyone else's good time. All that, before going near an actual event.

Talking of which, what a bargain it was too. A pre-booked advance ticket for a train from Diss direct to East London and stadium seats within touching distance of the track – well, row 20 – at a price that should make football league, let alone Premiership, clubs blush. A fiver each for a three-and-a-half hour action-packed session.


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In explaining what we saw, I won't attempt to be a poor Channel Four – which, by the way, I thought did an excellent job, despite the misgivings of many, and made up for the irritation of commercial breaks and what it lacks in resources with a refreshing brand of unbridled enthusiasm. Live, we got the Full Monty; a session-long final to accompany glimpses of Jason Smyth, and Hannah Cockcroft breezing through their heats and Oscar Pistorius on the podium, if not in performance.

Despite the absence of any British athletes, our F11 triple jump final for blind athletes was the highlight of the day.

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Demonstrating that the Paralympics can be about entertainment or, to put it another way, having a laugh as well as sporting prowess, China's Li Duan won himself an army of new fans who, prior to 10am last Thursday had not an inkling that they would become so.

The gangling 34-year-old, lined up on the runaway for each of his six jumps still wearing tracksuit bottoms before demonstrating the wonders of Velcro by whipping them off with a matador's flourish just before he started his run-up.

Without fail it brought whoops of delight from the crowd, which then, as this particular event demands, immediately fell silent as the athlete's guide shouted instructions and clapped pace counts from a position astride the take-off board.

How brave it is for these men to run hell-for-leather in the dark before hop, skip and jumping almost 40ft into the void.

Unsurprisingly, things didn't always go smoothly.

Some jumpers pulled up, others barely made it into the sandpit and one narrowly avoided crashing into a rapidly retreating umpire sitting too close to the trackside.

Eventually, the showman took silver with a leap of 12.75m, second best to Russian Denis Gulin's 12.91m; distances that are a long way from Jonathan Edwards's long standing world record of 18.29m. On the whole though, I think I'd settle for saying that I was at the London Paralympics the day we cheered a Chinese man for whipping off his trackie daks.

I hope that the structural magnificence of East London's new architecture will eventually benefit the poor and poorly housed. It would certainly improve the wellbeing of the nation if everyone was inspired to take up running or jumping or cycling or swimming.

An extension of the tolerance, human behaviour and general good humour that existed all across the crowded Park would be a worthwhile legacy too.

But already, less than a day after 80,000 synchronised shouts of 'Ol�!' greeted Li Duan's striptease, I find myself getting hot under the collar again.

Deep inside my Friday EDP I find news that the 40th Lowestoft Blind Bowls tournament has been cancelled. In the 1980s, it attracted more than 100 competitors and drew large crowds. This week, just a dozen players had been due to turn up.

Organisers said the low uptake was because people couldn't afford to travel to and stay in the town for the contest.

So forgive my scorn as, on Sunday night, Jimmy Carr, David Cameron, and Boris Johnson rode on the coat tails of these goodwill games. Carr, whose tax avoidance denied the Exchequer its proper share of the funds that pay for disability living allowance; Cameron who presides over a regime determined to get disabled people it often wrongly regards as benefits scroungers back to work; and Johnson, the man who hides his blue blooded privilege behind a fa�ade of boyish bonhomie.

All were interviewed at the stadium by an unfamiliarly benign Jon Snow, besotted by the closing ceremony or under orders not to be a party pooper by asking them what the Dickens they were doing there.

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