A United Kingdom

August 14, 2012 1:00 pm

The last two weeks have provided irrefutable proof that the Olympic spirit is more than an idea – and it may just turn out to be the shot in the arm so badly needed by debt-ridden Britain.

After more than a decade of planning, preparation and nervous tension, London 2012 is over.

With preliminary meetings first taking place in February 1994, the process has been a tough one and has spanned a tumultuous decade and a half which saw some of the most tragic events in recent history.

After ruling out competing with Beijing for the right to host the 2008 games, London focused its efforts on netting the 30th Olympiad scheduled to take place in 2012. As the bid came together under the careful guidance of Lord Sebastian Coe, time gave us numerous  points that came to define our generation. The death of Princess Diana in 1997 was just the first in a series of events that meant by the time of the games the British public and the world at large were forever changed, with the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and resulting invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq creating consequences that still affect us today.

Less than twenty four hours after winning the bid against rival city Paris, London was rocked by a string of bombings and suicide attacks that claimed the lives of fifty two innocent civilians going about their daily business. Such an event inevitably called into question the viability of hosting such a global sporting festivity as the Olympic Games in the city.

The recession of 2007-2008 which still haunts us was yet another hurdle London and the UK had to overcome in order to deliver games rivalling those delivered by Beijing in 2008 where Team GB enjoyed their most successful games in decades. Nineteen Gold medals, a feat surely not to be matched four years later?

Britain has a depressing talent at doing badly on home soil. Can anyone name a single British sportsman or woman in any discipline that they can feel confident watching? Misfortune and bad form dog our hopes like a persistent and incredibly annoying shadow.

Yet over sixteen days of competition in front of the entire world, Team GB delivered in magnificent style. From relative unknowns such as Greg Rutherford, to national icons such as Jessica Ennis, the medal count rapidly climbed toward the Beijing high-water mark.

With more than four days of competition remaining, the Gold standard was already passed, Beijing 2008 looking like a distant, almost obscure memory. Medals continued to flow and sixty five became the final total; Nineteen bronze and Seventeen silver. Twenty nine Gold.

Perhaps ‘Super Saturday’ will go down as the greatest day?

Not since the days of the Second World War has the country stood together as one, united without boundaries of rival clubs and teams. The power of these games was to make us feel good about ourselves in a time when cynical media reports would have us believe Britain is a worn-out, decrepit shadow of its former self, with London the centre of that great dying beast.

The Olympics provided a shared experience that put the ‘United’ back into our Kingdom.

London was alive and the world could see it.

The entire nation embraced the Olympic Games and the athletes it brought with it – British fair play and sportsmanship were seen to be graphically alive and well. The opening and closing ceremonies showed the world what London and Great Britain had done for it yet avoided the brash and cocky arrogance that had been apparent during the Beijing games. No massed ranks of automaton gymnasts here; no girl deemed ‘too ugly’ to appear in front of the worlds cameras. Britain was bared, warts and all, for the inhabitants of the globe to judge.

As Lord Coe stated emphatically, we did it. And we did it right.

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