Let's hope the youngwill be inspired by these golden Games
This extravaganza was a greater triumph than most Britons had dared to dream but it will count for little if PM David Cameron's promise is not fulfilled
Hats off to IOC president Jacques Rogge. He clearly had been humming the national anthem of Great Britain in the back of his limo and when riding the lift to his hotel suite over the past two weeks.
When he came to penning his closing speech, he drew heavily on the lyrics
God Save the Queen, and inserted a salient line to describe London 2012. "These were the happy and glorious Games," he said during a brief lull in the raucous closing ceremony.
It is also clear that in his DVD collection he has some choice British humour listed under C for comedy. These have been "absolutely fabulous Games," he said, before the brilliantly inspired final song -
My Generation (sans the f-word) performed by The Who - sent the10,500 dancing athletes into the dizzy London night and the partying testosterone level deliriously into the red.
IOC presidents agonise over their choice of words in their closing speeches for fear of offending the hosts, past and present. The late Olympic chief Juan Antonio Samaranch fell into hot water for using the "best ever/greatest" accolades too many times, as he last did for 2000 Sydney. The "best ever" or "greatest" line not only cheapens the summing up sentiments but also causes too much upset among organising committees and rabid tweeting nationalists.
Rogge has been wary of being seen to compare the summer and winter Olympics on his watch, rightly summing up each for their individualism and slipping in the bad bits between the lines.
He called 2004 Athens the "unforgettable, dream Games" even though the event was blighted by nightmarish problems, from unfinished venues to few spectators, and he said Beijing was the "truly exceptional Games" despite the exceptionally joyless atmosphere and heavy, triumphant and political chest-beating overtones. Both events were very good though they did not tick all the boxes.
The British media - especially the tabloids - have not held back, declaring the past two weeks as the "greatest Games", as we all knew they would after such a success. They have inserted a liberal amount of gold stars in the London report card while looking about the global Olympic classroom with record- breaking smugness.
And London mayor Boris Johnson could not resist a bit of told-you-so-jeering at his 2012 adversaries, adding a generous dash of jingoism for good measure.
"There were the people who simply doubted that in these difficult times we could put on a Games to rival Beijing in 2008. Well, as things have turned out I reckon we have knocked Beijing - with all respect to our Chinese friends, and greatly though I admired those Games - into a cocked hat," he boasted. The majority of us Brits aren't in the mood for gloating. We are instead celebrating with a hearty pat on the back and a large brow wipe of relief, a job well done.
We have had a jolly good time - beyond expectation - and our great athletes have done us proud with their fantastic medal haul. We all have to do a second take when we look at the final table and see we are third, behind China and the US.
No, aside from the headline writers and Johnson, most of us British in the post-2012 Olympic world are remembering who we are - and that is an innovative, fun-loving, freedom-loving, Mickey-taking, jokey laugh-at-ourselves, confident nation where fair play is paramount. We have been reminded of what we can do - and that includes putting on a highly organised creative pageant to dazzle the world with our culture - welcoming all comers in the process, of course.
Now the Olympic flame has been doused, we are thanking our sporting heroes for giving us good reason to fly the Union Jack with without pangs of guilt. The gossip in the post office queues yesterday morning was about why Prince Harry represented the queen during the grand finale and not Prince William (William was on flying duty), the extortionate price of a first class stamp and that Scottish independence thingy might have to wait a while longer.
We were in raptures watching the new generation of sporting stars like Mo Farah emerge, and we hailed the current champions like Usain Bolt. We also waved a fond farewell to the great Olympians - Michael Phelps, Chris Hoy, Ben Ainslie and Liu Xiang among them. And we celebrated all the truly great women athletes who have finally muscled out male chauvinism and appeared in all 26 disciplines for the first time.
The athletes fulfilled the main brief and inspired a generation and wowed the rest of us. But it will be the legacies of London 2012 that will finally be decide how great the 30th Olympiad has been.
I will judge the success of these Games on the fulfilment, or otherwise, of a promise made by Prime Minister David Cameron on the last day of the London Olympics. He said the entire ethos of British schools must change to show pupils that "winning and losing is an important part of growing up".
He promised to put competitive sports such as netball and football into the national curriculum for primary school children. You wouldn't think it from the medal haul, but due to successive government policy and our ghastly compensation culture, far too many Brits have become slovenly and complainers.
"We are saying out with the bureaucratic, anti-risk culture which has led to a death of competitive sport in too many schools and in with the belief that competition is healthy, that winning and losing is an important part of growing up," said Cameron.
Before we put on our party hats and start sambaing towards Rio 2016, I'll doff my Union Jack knotted handkerchief to this call to bring sport back to where it belongs in Britain - the playground, the playing fields and back in young hearts. Now is the time to make sure the Olympic movement does what it does best - truly inspire and bring change.