Anyone out there still think that London shouldn’t have got the Olympics for 2012. Well, bollocks to the lot of you. The only thing this country’s had taken from it during the past two weeks is its cynicism, but thankfully a bewilderingly naff closing ceremony restored sarcasm to the national consciousness.
Of course, the Games weren’t about that. I had one day there, watched some springboard diving semi-final, and loved it. I felt that true sense of Britishness as we cheered plucky Chris Meares as he sneaked into the final, and we sympathised with a fresh-faced yank as he hit the pool like crumbling gargoyle falling a high wall.
We were escorted and encouraged as we trudged from West Ham tube station by a cross-section of selfless Londoners (sadly for the odd right-wing numpty, all cheerful and multicultural). And you have to pray to God that Cameron doesn’t keep banging on about this supposed aspect of the Big Society cos the rash of political opportunism in the last five days is politics at its most cynical.
It was a brilliant day but mostly I watched it on the telly, like the rest of you. And I have never before been bothered about how well some geezer does a pommel horse routine. Or how well a lass waved a foot in the face of another lass; or punched another lass in the ribs; or made a horse walk in time to ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’…
I expected to be thrilled by Jessica Ennis and Gawd help me that’s a beautiful woman; I hoped to be shrieking as Mo Farah held off the Horn of Africa down the home straight; I trusted that Bolt would delight me with the apparent afterthought of his utter genius; but I never expected to find that the moments I’ll remember would be so varied and wondrous.
Peter Wilson, collapsing after his final two shots won him something called a Double Trap Thingammy. Gemma Gibbons hacking out sobs as she flipped some French judoka lass and made it into the final. Kat Copeland screeching naïvely at her mate after they won the rowing “We won the Olympics! They’re going to put us on a stamp!” (you can take a lass out of Teesside…) And the subversive grandeur of Danny Boyle’s NHS sequence, mounted before those leaders whose lives may never need to resort to its necessity.
The Beeb’s coverage was really rather brilliant – mind-blowing, compared to the utter shambles of the Diamond Jubilee blathering – and as with the sport, the women were by and large more impressive than the blokes. Balding’s the best sports presenter out there, if you ask me.
Yes, the coverage was shamelessly partisan but the rooting for our guys never spilled into enmity for their guys (but fear not, ye buckets of hate, for the football season has already begun) and hellfire if we can’t get up for our fellow citizens performing on the greatest sporting stage in our own back yard then what’s the flaming point, eh?
I can’t say I loved every minute. Synchronised swimming still comes across as a nightmare sequence from a Baz Luhrmann horror film – is it really necessary to look like a snooty ten-dollar whore in order to compete in a sporting competition? The rhythmic gymnastics is pretty and pointless, the One Direction of the Games. I wouldn’t keep the Horse Dancing, or the thinly disguised wankfest of the Beach Volleyball.
There’s no need to keep men’s football, or start with golf, or continue with tennis now that it’s served its purpose and given Andy Murray the self-belief he needed.
But this all feels a tad churlish. Every sport is preposterous if you choose to see it that way – or heroic and ennobling if it’s your passion. What we’ve seen is that a parade of people trying their utmost, straining their sinews, testing their minds, and in the case of two Arabic women crossing a finishing line just after the next race has commenced but proving that there’s really nowt wrong with being a human being in all its aspects, is as inspiring a sight as life has to offer.
And even if not all of us can even begin to imagine swinging on a bar like Mr Zonderland, or pedalling a bike like a man turned machine like the spark-to-the-flame that was old Wiggo, or float across the land at top speed like the supernaturally graceful Allyson Felix, we can adore the fact that others can, and relish the moments in which we give witness to it.
I knew people who thought that the Diamond Jubilee expressed much of what makes Britain great – whereas I thought it expressed much of what makes Britain cross. Privilege, vapid spectacle, ingrained inherited unending barely unearned wealth… The Olympics expressed far more of what makes this country really rather excellent.
This is a welcoming place, a kindly one. This is a place where the striving is as important as the result. This is a place where taking part is a way of belonging. This is a place where we can get the job done without losing our sense of humour. Hell even the Queen likes a laugh. This is a place where women can do what men can do, because there’s no reason on earth why they shouldn’t.
London 2012, unless the shiftless muppets that populate the political fraternity of that great city manage to turn a legacy into just one more leg-up, will go down as one of the grandest two weeks of my life as a British person.
Of course, there’ll be plenty of fuck-witted economists keen to tell us how much these Games were worth, but theirs is a yardstick that tyrannises every activity in this country. If worth is to be measured exclusively in terms of pennies made then we may as well turn into street trollops tomorrow and take our chances.
I leave it to others to put a price on Mo Farah’s glorious finishing straight. To me, it, and the whole experience (give or take Russell Brand, some banal catwalking coathangers, and the John Lennon face jigsaw puzzle) was pure and golden bliss.