What a weekend. Britain has won eight gold medals in two days of wonder at London 2012, adding to the eight we won in the previous three days. The whole nation has been enthralled and proud.
The slogan of these Olympics is ‘inspire a generation’. We saw it everywhere at the Millennium Stadium when we went to the very first London 2012 event 11 days ago. The events of the last few days suggest it’s more than a slogan. I can imagine a huge increase in interest in cycling, rowing and athletics over the coming weeks as people of all ages want to try the sports that have featured in Great Britain’s success.
It’s not just the fact of gold success. The inspiration comes in the moving stories of the men and women who have done us so proud. Bradley Wiggins claimed gold just 10 days after winning the world’s most gruelling road race, the Tour de France. Rower Katherine Grainger finally claimed gold after winning silver in the previous three Olympics. And most poignantly of all, perhaps, Mo Farah won the 10,000 metres having fled to Britain as a child with his parents from war-torn Somalia. (The Daily Mail must be feeling very stupid having labelled our hero a ‘plastic Brit’.)
I was strongly sceptical about Britain hosting the games. The cost seemed outrageous for a 16 day circus even before the economy hit the buffers. But like so many I now think it’s been a landmark for the country. The world has seen Britain in a new light. We’ve enjoyed an amazing Olympic summer with the Paralympics to follow. And we’ve seen sport at its very best. Winners and losers alike have been eloquent and gracious. (I loved Greg Rutherford’s emotional response to winning the long jump.)
It’s not just about winning. I’ve liked the way the British media have reassured those who didn’t scale the heights that they’ve done us proud. That’s another lesson for anyone inspired to compete in sport: you can do no more than your best. It’s good to celebrate true endeavour in an age when worthless celebrity carries too much cachet.