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Magical memories of 2012 - Olympics: 'Mo Farah, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford gave us a night no one could forget'

4 August: That night in the Olympic Stadium

In a year studded with the brightest and hardest of diamonds there is still a quite stunning certainty about the jewel of circumstance that is still so dazzling it might have been cut no more than an hour ago.

It was when Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford not only delivered gold medals so close together that the pulse of the sporting nation could never before have run so fast but also sent out waves of uplift that soared beyond every boundary. For that fabled hour you wouldn't have wanted to be anything but British.

This was a reaction that could not have offended a soul on some sheep station or fishing village in the far corners of the globe because so plainly it wasn't some cheap outcrop of chauvinism.

It was rather the latest evidence of sport's ability to unite a people in pride and this just happened to be one which had already impressed visitors from all over the world that it saw the Olympics as more than anything a gift that Britain, hard-up, embattled, self-questioning and too often demoralised old Britain, could give to everyone who came.

If there was any doubt about this it dissolved in the celebration of the outstanding athlete of the Games, the extraordinary Usain Bolt. He too was seen as a citizen of the world. He could be embraced not only for his amazing athletic ability but also a zeal and exuberance for life which reminded you of how it was when Muhammad Ali walked down a street, any street, and brought such a sharp increase in the pleasure of being alive. There was also the fact that if Britain wanted to paint itself as a place rejoicing in its diversity it could hardly have been better served by its self-elected heroine and two heroes.

Farah came from Somalia, one of the most benighted corners of Africa, and now he was wrapping himself in the Union Flag and accepting the unforgettable tribute of his adopted land. When he moved into the lead in the 10,000m for the first of his gold medals there was thunder in the air. He was so indefatigably brilliant that a week later, when he lined up against a formidable roll call of East Africans before the start of the 5,000, you were prompted to believe that never before had such a frail stature housed such an enormous heart.

Ennis's father came from Jamaica but his daughter sent down unifying roots in his adopted country. No one ever embraced more beautifully the challenge of becoming an Olympic champion – and few faced quite such pressure.

Greg Rutherford's blood line runs back through champion footballers for Newcastle United and Arsenal. When he found his nerve in the long jump he gave those fine sportsmen, along with his nation, another fine monument to arguably the most exultant Olympics ever staged.

On the way back to King's Cross, an elderly American, steel haired and walking with a stick, declared to no one particular, "I have been to every Olympics since Rome in 1960 and I have never known such spirit."

His verdict may have been a general one but it was surely intensified by less than one hour of the night that no one would ever be able to forget.

Further reading:

Football: ‘When Chelsea saw off Barcelona, the joy was in watching the spoilers have their day’ 24 April: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (agg 2-3); Champions League semi-final second leg - Sam Wallace

Athletics: ‘The roar for Ennis made the hair stand up on the back of my neck’ 3 August: Opening day of track and field at the Olympics - Simon Turnbull

Rugby Union: ‘It was eerie seeing England sticking it to the silver fern’ 1 December: Manu Tuilagi waltzes to the try line as England smash New Zealand- Chris Hewett

Cycling: 'Bradley Wiggins' achievement was greatest we have ever seen from a Briton' 22 July: Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France - Alasdair Fotheringham

Football: ‘We’ll never encounter anything quite like it again’ 13 May: Manchester City win the title in thrilling style - Ian Herbert

Football: ‘After losing the title in the cruellest way, Ferguson stood firm’ 13 May: United are denied the title in heart-breaking style Martin Hardy

Olympics: ‘Nobody personified it more than Hoy, the ultimate sportsman’ 27 July: Hoy leads out Team GB at the Games opening ceremony - Robin Scott-Elliot

Football: ‘An hour later Theo Walcott was a hero – given a standing ovation’ 26 February: Theo Walcott turns the jeers to cheers to steer Arsenal to derby victory - Glenn Moore

Golf: ‘This was it. The moment that would decide the Ryder Cup. A 10-footer for glory ... Get in!’ 30 September: Europe claim Ryder Cup in thrilling fashion - Kevin Garside

Boxing: ‘The fight was terrific from the first bell. It had urgency, nastiness' 14 July: David Haye v Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora - Steve Bunce

Tennis: ‘After Murray won he staggered in a daze, then held his head in his hands’ 11 September: Andy Murray ends Britain’s wait for a major - Paul Newman

Football: ‘That night Spain played thrilling, bold, beautiful football’  1 July: Beautiful Spain smash Italy in the Euro 2012 final - Jack Pitt-Brooke

Formula One: ‘Kimi’s Lotus win was F1’s most romantic result’  4 November: Kimi Raikkonen zooms to victory in Abu Dhabi - David Tremayne

Racing: ‘Frankel enlarged life’s comfort zone for us all’ 22 August: Juddmonte International Stakes; Frankel finally goes the full distance - Chris McGrath

Cricket: ‘A sweep for three and Cook had broken a 73-year-old landmark’  6 December: Alastair Cook breaks England century record - Ste