Alan Hubbard: London 2012 - a triumph of the human spirit


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The Independent Online

When Jacques Rogge formally declares London 2012 to be "the best Games ever", as he will tonight, the Olympic Stadium should reverberate to thundering roars of "Hear hear", a deserved acclaim that surely will echo around the world.

Best Games ever? "That's for others to say, not me," said Seb Coe. Well, Rogge will say it for him and, for once, will mean it. And so will I.

Simply the best.

It is not a judgement to be made lightly because there have been some tremendous Olympics in my memory, not least those in Tokyo, my first in 1964, Barcelona, Athens and Sydney. But after these past two wondrous weeks, London stands atop the podium, having exceeded everyone's expectations.

It has been a wrench to dislodge Sydney from the consciousness as the greatest Games of the 12 I have attended, because there were aspects of those Olympics that were London's equal.

Most notably, the earthy warmth of the Aussies, but here, one of our most pleasant experiences has been to walk through a corridor of smiles to the Olympic Park and, once inside, to be clasped in a beguiling atmosphere of genuine delight that London is playing host to the world.

London has shown Britain at its best. Yet in some ways it has all seemed so un-British, for few would have expected to find us expressing ourselves with such abandon as our athletes went from triumph to triumph.

Certainly, for sporting excellence, few Games have come even close. How often have we heard "Amazing. Incredible. Fantastic" from the lips of the commentators, and, for once, agreed that they were not overstating or overselling what we were witnessing?

In all my years of covering sport, I never imagined I would hear wide-eyed youngsters passing through West Ham on the Jubilee Line excitedly discussing the finer points of heptathlon rather than Sam Allardyce's penchant for the long ball game.

For British sport, this has been a triumph of the human spirit. Not one engineered by backroom boffins built on loads-a-Lottery money and home advantage, but one built by the endeavours of dedicated athletes in many sports, endeavours that have been unprecedented and received with a pride that has been lacking in the nation of late.

"Inspire a Generation" has been the Games' slogan, and the hope is that they already have. "Not one generation, but many," is the tribute paid to 2012 by Germany's Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee member who is widely tipped to succeed Rogge next year. Whether it makes us a healthier nation depends on how long the euphoria lingers.

This has been a true Festival of Britain, one that has expressed itself joyously, if occasionally extravagantly, and, unquestionably, it has been worth it.

There had been fears of demonstrations; there were none, other than the brilliance of the athletes.

These Games have grabbed the imagination beyond everyone's wildest hopes, not least those of Coe himself.

The party's nearly over. Now comes the almost inevitable hangover before the Paralympians take centre stage to do it over again, and just as gloriously.

London 2012. Pure gold.