What an extraordinary couple of weeks we have seen, with the Olympics. Even for those of us who had hoped and believed they would go well, it has been beyond anything we could have imagined.
The people of London and the UK more generally have risen to the occasion, with crowds that have shown a spirit of gamesmanship and goodwill that has cheered on athletes from every part of the world.
Images of London and the UK have been broadcast around the world, which shows a country of beauty and a nation which is remarkably at ease with itself;
And a haul of medals which has surpassed any expectations.
There are a number things that I think will make 2012 so memorable, beyond the sporting achievements themselves.
First of all, Seb Coe and his team really delivered. There have been few times over the past seven years when there hasn’t been someone sniping that it won’t be ready; that it won’t be worthwhile; that the security won’t be handled properly etc etc. In the event, we have seen so much careful preparation and attention to detail that it must surely rank in the eyes of the world as one of the best Olympics ever. Maybe it’s time as a nation we started having more faith in our ability to deliver.
Then, there has been the transformation of London from one of the world’s great business cities to a city united in celebration of the Olympics and all they stand for. For me, one of the last memories will be the army of cheerful volunteers, ever helpful and enthusiastic, who have been there throughout to make people’s experience of visiting the Games as good as it could be and who have gone the extra mile to make people welcome.
These Games say a lot about Britain as a nation in 2012. These have not been Games which have sought to glorify the British state, and rightly so. They have shown a nation which is proud of its history and its achievements, yet which is remarkably at ease with itself and which can find humour in almost anything.
And finally, the theme for 2012 has been to Inspire a Generation. In that I hope it has truly succeeded.
One of the aspects of society I have disliked most over recent years has been a ‘celebrity culture’ where people are famous for nothing more than being in the public eye.
These Games have shown us that true celebrity status comes from years of incredible dedication and hard work, constant battling against the odds to be the best you can be, and yet in victory, they have shown immense charm and modesty. If we can replicate that in the years to come, it will be a very special legacy indeed.