What an exhilarating fortnight the Olympics was. There was a wave of euphoria that swept the nation and we allowed ourselves to get fully swept up by it. And what a ride.
But now the attention will turn to legacy. Will it get more people playing sports? Will we see more elite athletes in 20 years time who can trace their passion and desire to 2012? Yes, in both counts if my family is any barometer. I’ve started cycling to and from work and my four year old wants to be in the Olympics (although he can’t choose between diving, running, sandpit jumping or egg-and-spoon).
But the biggest legacy that fascinates me is that of brand Britain. Cast your mind back a couple of years. The Union Jack and the term British stood for a group of ignorant people angry with their diminishing position in world, fearful of immigration and not tolerant of different religions, race or lifestyle preference. Britain as a country was seen as in decline, somewhere where the rich got even richer and the tabloid press invaded your privacy.
The jubilee celebration and the royal wedding last year softened what it meant to be British. It was socially acceptable to wave a Union Jack in public and all the pomp and ceremony were a lot of fun. Then came the Olympics and that opening ceremony. The more I think about Danny Boyle’s opening celebration the more I feel blown away. It showed our proud heritage when we were the global powerhouse and what we have given the world in terms of music and culture. It also celebrated the underlying socialist society that we as a nation voted for after the Second World War and that still exists today.
Our athletes performed as well. They showed that hard work and talent can take you far, and we showed them that our passion and excitement could take them further. After winning his second gold medal, Mo Farah said to Radio Two’s Chris Evans “you kept cheering, so I kept running”.
The end result is a feeling of being bloody good, at both organising the ‘greatest show on earth’ but also that we can mix it with the best people in the world and come out on top.
I’ve always been proud to be British but I now feel that I can be public about it and that is the legacy of the 2012 Olympics. Being British is cool and we have given the world (and ourselves) a glimpse into who we really are and what we can do. I love what our little island has done in the last 100 years but most of all I love what Britain is today, a blend of cultures, passions and people.