i Editor's Letter: An Olympics sceptic

 

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The Independent Online

 

Goodness, what shall we all do once the Olympics is over? It has been an odd feeling, observing and commenting on a stream of sporting successes during the past fortnight. It's not often that we journalists have such an unrelentingly upbeat story to tell.

I freely admit I was an Olympics sceptic. I thought the transport system would buckle under the weight of additional tourist traffic, and that our athletes would crack under the pressure to perform.

That didn't happen. I've been able to get to work on time, and I've enjoyed the Games more than any other Games I can remember, apart from Sydney. I see nothing jingoistic or hyperbolic about saying that I think London 2012 delivered way beyond our expectations.

I went to a lecture by Sir Roy Strong the other night, as part of the Cultural Olympiad events. He was talking about the distinction between being "English" and "British", and arguing that the English, unlike the Scots and the Welsh, have no real sense of national identity. Instead, they inhabit a landscape of the imagination – something that is based on nostalgia and pastoral fantasy rather than reality.

Personally, I would argue that all of us in the United Kingdom are guilty of yearning for a golden age, whether we are Scots looking back (700 years) to a time when we could kick hell out of the English, or Welsh hankering for an age of bardic poetry and song.

That's why I found the Olympics so cheering. For once, we British were able to live in the here and now, celebrating not only our sporting prowess but our ability to invite the world to our table and dish up a spectacle without spilling the metaphorical soup.

Stefano Hatfield is back on Monday

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