London 2012: it's been emotional
Something has shifted in the last 17 days. Something fundamental.
This nation of shopkeepers has sloughed off its cynicism, filled brimful its half empty glass and embraced positivity.
It has made us giddy as Americans.
We waved flags, cheered, won things. We smiled. We spoke to people in the street. We said please and thank you. We were nice about the BBC. We had good news in our newspapers. Men in vans stopped swearing at cyclists. We stopped blaming people for failure. We stopped failing. The Queen jumped out of a helicopter.
It was all rather neatly summed up by a woman watching the cycling in Bushy Park: "Bradley Wiggins says he's going to win gold. That's not very British."
And then Danny Boyle gave us ... Mr Bean on an electric keyboard
She was right. For Britain big sporting events mean to resign oneself to a battle well fought but ultimately not won. To herald every semi-final victory with a sinking feeling and a sanguine: "Maybe."
And maybe Mitt Romney, the US presidential hopeful, had a point when he questioned whether Britain was ready for the Olympics. Perhaps as a nation we were not. Not ready for the overwhelming battering of success, achievement, pride, love, excitement, sheer unbridled joy that the biggest show on earth would bring.
When the Olympics opened 17 days ago we were still looking for someone to blame for the security scandal. G4S, the politicians, G4S again. An Olympic bus carrying US athletes was lost for four hours in London getting from Heathrow Airport to the Olympic Village.
Victoria Pendleton: just one of many heros
There was much grumbling about the prospects of a traffic nightmare: "I didn't want the Olympics, I didn't ask for the Olympics and now it's going to stuff up the M4." Acres of Olympics souvenirs sat untouched on shelves, the cycloptic eyes of Mandeville and Wenlock destined for a life in landfill.
And then Danny Boyle gave us dark satanic mills, 40 sheep, three cows, nine geese, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 12 horses and Kenneth Branagh. He gave us 7,346 square metres of England's green and pleasant land, 320 NHS beds, 600 dancing nurses and Mr Bean on an electric keyboard.
"We sat down with a blank sheet of paper and asked what is it about us? You focus on the best of us." said Boyle explaining his vision for the £27m Isles of Wonder ceremony. What he surely must have neglected to say is that he also had a very big Post-it note above his computer which read: "Queen jumping out of helicopter? With Bond? Corgis? Must ask Palace."
How long before we stop smiling in the street? How long before the war between cyclists and motorists begins again?
He reminded us of the peculiar and slightly weird experience of being British in 2012 and as the 204 copper petals formed the Olympic flame that would burn throughout the games, so Britain's games fervour was ignited.
We learnt a new lexicon and talked of PBs (personal bests should you really still need to ask), we replaced the word "under" with "sub" and we spoke of transitions and pelotons. We used the word legend too much, and inappropriately. We marvelled that horses could apparently dance to Tears for Fears and discussed the logistics of how to administer energy drinks to 10k open water swimmers using a pole and something that looked very much like a plastic pint glass.
We tweeted. A lot. And our real life sporting heroes tweeted back messages of thanks.
Then there were the Olympics moments. Where to start? The montages, snapshots, profiles, post race interviews. The images that will stay locked in the minds of the generation these games were supposed to inspire.
- Mo Farah taking gold in the 10,000m and 5,000m embracing his pregnant wife on the track. The Mo-Bot celebration.
- Bradley Wiggins, king of the road, sitting on his Hampton Court throne.
- Jessica Ennis giving her all in the final 800m of the heptathlon.
- Gemma Gibbons, the judo silver medallist mouthing "I love you" to her departed mother.
- Nick Dempsey, the windsurfing silver medallist, diving into the sea to swim to his wife who sacrificed her gold medal-winning sailing career so he could pursue his.
- Greg Rutherford working the crowd after his winning long jump.
- The Brownlee brothers embracing after taking gold and bronze in the triathlon.
- Victoria Pendleton grasping the hand of Anna Meares, the Australian, after coming second to her in the cycling individual sprint.
- Andrew Murray winning at Wimbledon.
- The look of total and utter shock on the face of Katherine Copeland as she and her rowing partner crossed the line having taken gold in the lightweight double sculls.
- Sir.Chris.Hoy. His tears of joy at becoming Britain's greatest ever Olympian.
And then of course there's the medal tally that put us third in the world: 65 in total, 29 of them gold.
Mo Farah stunned the world
Inspired we have been. Not just by achievement but by the athletes, their words, and their humility. To a nation used to spoilt, arrogant and ill-mannered footballers. Our Olympians have been a revelation.
As the start of the Premier League is now less than a week away, footballers beware. Britain will no longer tolerate your childishness. A nation expects. It expects better role models
However already normal service is starting to resume. The Tia Sharp murder case has bumped smiling gold medallists from the front pages and the closing ceremony has been lambasted all over Twitter for Russell Brand and basically being a bit "school disco".
We have stunning memories that will last forever but can Britain keep up at least some the optimism? How long before the lustre of Britain's gold rush begins to wear off, tarnished by the recession. How long before we stop smiling in the street? How long before the war between cyclists and motorists begins again? Before we stop saying "Please", "Thank you" and "Hello"? Before we forget what it felt like to be proud of being British? That will be the true test of our Olympic legacy.
The Union Flag re-imagined to reflect Team GB's success at London 2012
MSN Hack Cartoon
As a British expat living in China, I have been blown away by the whole Olympic games, the remarkable venues, the sportsmanship oif the Britich athletes and the wonderful support they gained from the British public.
I have spent years listening to people overseas telling me the Brits are just a nation of has beens, moaners and wingers, thank God these people have been proved so wrong. British are a unique people, they keep there feelings and emotions well in check, but when it comes time to shine and stand up and be counted, they always raise the bar and this time the bar was raised to a spectacualr level. Thanks to everyone in the Uk who took part, organised or even just supported our athletes, you made many of us expats damn proud to be British once again, May the spirit that was seen during the Olympics not be lost, it is what is needed to move the UK forward in these tough economic times.
Thought the opening ceremony and the two weeks were great....but.....that has to be the biggest line up of drug users thats ever been in one place(and I don't mean the athletes)Kate Moss,Naomi Cambell,George Michael and Russell Brand....wonder if the police drugs dogs were working overtime last night.
Talking of Russell Brand..I thought the closing ceremony was about our great history and Britishness....That man is vile!
Maybe i'm wrong but i always thought the Paralympics were part of the Olympics too...
Also Pa.press.net your showing your stance again, please fully read your "Newshounds" articles before publishing.
As the start of the Premier League is now less than a week away, footballers beware. Britain will no longer tolerate your childishness. *England* expects. It expects better role models.
It has been the best two weeks ever, for myself personally. Negativity and depression have affected me greatly for the past few years in so many areas of my life and I am sure it is similar for others to. You switch on the TV, all doom and gloom. You look at people on their way to and from work each day - faces like thunder. People were quick to anger, but never quick to forgive. Then the Olympics came to London and the people changed, the news changed. Celebration, hapiness and a pleasure to be part of something amazing. Our athletes worked their socks off and were rewarded for their efforts with the country behind them. All did us proud, even those who did not receive a medal, deserve recognition for their efforts. There was minimal disappointment, but quickly forgotten.
I fear that now it is over, the negativity and depression will return and I personally don't want that anymore. So tired of seeing, hearing and feeling pain, negativity and depression in the world. Lets get behind Team GB in the Paralympics and keep that fantastic positivity going.
Failing that, there is always Doctor Who ;-)
I am in my ninth decade having lived a lot, seen a lot, been through poverty (the depression of the thirties) to the good standard of living we have today.The Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics rank amongst the greatest events I have lived through.I hand on the baton to the next generation with the confident expectation that Britain will move onward and upward. WELL DONE BRITAIN YOU DID US PROUD !!! . AN OPTIMIST