What happened to us over the last two weeks? We listened to advice. We helped out. We got patriotic. We even stopped complaining!
There is something uncharacteristically British about all of this, yet we felt an incredibly patriotic Britishness sweep over the nation. The paradox is startling yet quite beautiful and aside from the incredible sport, herein lies the reason why London 2012 was perhaps the best games in history.
Selfless volunteers answered the call of our capital as they flocked to the city in their thousands often camping, or paying for anywhere they could sleep despite not receiving money for their services. They revelled in the Olympic spirit that was moving fast through the country’s valleys and rivers. No bad word was said against them with many visitors remarking how friendly and kind the Gamesmakers were.
And then the army were called in for reinforcements and many feared a militaristic tension throughout the many grounds from Old Trafford to Stratford. But they rose to the challenge and provided the safety, security and friendly cheer that all craved.
Lastly, the locals must be praised. The Londoner is a feared being across the county and world, known for their reluctance to make conversation on the Tube, their apparent rudeness, and their inability to smile. But alas, these stereotypes are a thing of the past as the world was introduced to the real London. The Olympics have certainly changed the outside view of London. It is now seen as place with an incredible transport system, world class sporting venues, and a heartbeat that cannot be stopped.
It is a city that has been transformed in the face of self-assessment as we were asked: “Can we do it?” And do it we did. When confronted with the task of changing our travel habits, there was a slight grumble but we got on with it. People even remarked that at times the Tube appeared less busy than normal. We embraced the Olympic spirit with open arms and even gave it a kiss on the cheek and shed a tear when it passed.
So will these changes last?
It would be over optimistic of me to claim that London will maintain the Olympic fervour, especially with Parliament’s recess coming to an end and the daily grind of politics returning. But what is unassailably true is the legacy that the Olympics has left, and that does not mean legacy in the sense of sporting legacy and what will become of our stadiums. It is legacy in the sense of humanity – what we have learnt from the Games.
We have now experienced what togetherness feels like. A city that many have called fragmented, cold, and unwelcoming proved the critics wrong and uncovered the heart of London that has been hidden for years, perhaps since the Second World War.
Any time London comes under fire and hits a brick wall, which undoubtedly it will, the inhabitants of this noble city must look back to the Summer of 2012, a time when some say real life stopped, but in actual fact, the real life of London was resurrected.