Since London won the bid, back in 2005, there has been a mood clutching at the fabric of this Country. I shall admit that the mood has varied but, what has remained constant is the shared mood. It has swung and re-positioned dramatically until we reach the mood of today.
As I write, the highlights of the end parade are on my TV screen, I am listening to a soundtrack of cheers and jubilation as firstly the Prime Minister and then Princess Anne address the crowds. We, as a Nation, are once again proud. But, how did we get here? How did we reach this point when, just 12 months ago, we were at riot state. Businesses were being looted and buildings burned.
In 2005, we were awarded the 2012 games. Whilst the awarding of the bid was met warmly (we did beat the French, remember?), the tone soon headed downward as the impact of the Logo hit us squarely in our cynical minds. I shall refrain from mentioning, in detail, the similarity of the image to a cartoon character engaged in a questionable act. The consensus was simple, this did not bode well. Could we really host the Olympic and Paralympic games without bankrupting our fair land and, maybe more importantly, without making ourselves a laughing stock?
The apathy wheel gained momentum as the Olympic flag left Beijing after an underwhelming visit from Boris, Beckham and a London Bus. We hid our communal faces and hoped that it wouldn’t be too bad. To separate ourselves from the perceived embarrassment, we mocked. We scorned. We took every opportunity to complain, criticize and generally distance ourselves from the train-wreck that, surely, was about to hit London. We started with costs, sent transportation in as a second assault and, the final insult was issued in the form of pure ticket apathy.
The IOC restricted our ticket access, the buildings took forever to complete and, at the last minute, the security arrangements proved flawed. To be fair, they played into our scornful hands.
But then, what happened next?
Mitt Romney came to our shores and dared to suggest that we were not behind the games; that we were not ready or prepared to support this momentous event. How dare he? We have the right to find fault, he doesn’t. And so, the switch began!
We tuned into the opening ceremony in our millions. Danny Boyle depicted our eccentricities, our innovation, our human spirit and our unending talent, in a show to end all shows. We cried with laughter as the Queen took part in a sketch, we cried with pride as our servicemen and women carried the flag and we sang the National Anthem, accompanied by a choir of hearing impaired children.
Now, the scene was set; we were prepared to have a look, see how we do and maybe it won’t be too embarrassing. At least the opening showed Beijing that we mean business.
Then we waited for the medals to roll in. We waited for hours. Suddenly, the flood-gates were opened. This was amazing, a whole range of medals from all disciplines graced the necks of our athletes. Britain is Great! A day without a medal was like a junkie without a fix. We broke records and the stories from our athletes broke our hearts. Tom Daley’s Dad, Jade Jones’ Mum. Each medal came with a tale of dedication, commitment and sacrifice which, in turn, humbled us all.
We found our pride, we grasped our identity and we remembered what made Britain great! As the sun set on the closing ceremony, we were already giddy with anticipation for the Paralympics. We wanted to meet our ‘Superhumans’, we needed another, bigger fix.
Amazingly, we were not disappointed. If anything, we were educated, humbled and emotional in equal measures. More records tumbled, more precious metal was awarded and, let’s hope, our attitudes to disability were cast aside. If only for a couple of weeks, we were united. We saw the potential of others, we looked for ability and not disability. This is a beautiful position to be in.
Now what? It’s on us. We have the power to make this feeling last. We can choose to mock or to support. We have been proven wrong. We didn’t think it could be done. We mocked, doubted and moaned. However, we united against external criticism. Like the siblings who bicker at home but fight side by side in the playground, we stood up and we were counted.
We found new heroes and heroines. We also fell, head over heels for Clare Balding!
Mr Romney, we thank you!