Now that the simply magnificent London 2012 Olympics are over (although great luck to the Para Olympians yet to take part), it is a time for reflection on what was pretty universally agreed to be one of the best- if not the best- Olympics ever.
There was the perhaps expected cynicism before hand, which I must admit I partly shared. Would the capital grind to a halt? Could the creaking tube and bus systems cope with the extra people? Things were made worse just before the games started with the G4S blunders over security and the very early problems as the games unfolded such as the bus that took hours to get athletes from Heathrow to Stratford etc. These all played into our expectations that it would not be the outstanding success that it became- perhaps also it played to how we view ourselves as a nation of people, that we don’t believe we could perform such a feat, that we’re just not that good and that on the sporting field in particular, that Great Britain will always be gracious losers.
The latter point was one that Sir Chris Hoy, who knows a thing or two about sporting success, made when he said that he felt that attitude is starting to change in that the Olympics does show that we can be successful, we can be champions and the medal table does not lie – we ARE the third most successful sporting country and that is something that we should celebrate.
However what I felt most moved by during the last two weeks or so was the Olympics positivity and ‘spirit’ that was generated. At the one Olympics event I did get tickets to (Womens Football Final – USA v Japan) and the several times I saw the events being televised at the BT 2012 Hyde Park screenings, there was a feeling or ethos of being in effect a kind of ‘Festival of Britain’ where you just suspend what is going on in the ‘real’ world and just revel in the sporting panorama in front of you.
As a result, people seemed really happy, engrossed in what was going on, delighted at Team GB’s success, sporting for other nations and a feeling that a medal for Team GB was a medal for us: something we could all celebrate - walking around London, people whether Londoners or visitors just seemed happy to be there and to be part of this unique event. And it crossed barriers- across ages, nationalities, race, creed, gender, sexuality, religion- everyone seemed to just revel in it all.
I think this also says something quite fundamental about us as human beings too. What makes people happy and enthused is not great wealth, nor fame/celebrity or being surrounded with physicall beautiful people, but to feel part of something greater than ourselves- it is that sense of community and of being ‘whole’ that we seek. The 2012 Olympics brought us together as a nation and as a group of people- in years to come I expect people and historians to talk about the 2012 Olympics spirit in the same way that we now talk about the Dunkirk and Blitz spirit. In short, for a while, we changed.