So The Games are over and these days no doubt it'll be a thin lady singing to mark the end of one of this country's biggest triumphs in decades. I don't think that's an exaggeration.
Think back to the closing ceremony in Beijing. We'd become accustomed to the military precision of the Chinese games and the ending of them was no different – huge scale, a mathematically-orchestrated message of the power and confidence of the nation. Then on came the iconic London bus, a football kicked, and a bit of urban street dancing as I recall. Uh oh! The naysayers for 2012 waded in early. "Are you kidding? After what Beijing had served up was this what we had in mind for our Games – On the Buses meets Gregory's Girl?"
Well, yes actually, as it turned out. The transport worked, the sport just got better and better, and everyone fell in love in the end.
The whole thing felt like Britain at its best. I hadn't gone to the Olympic Park during the games but live very near Richmond Park so saw some great cycling and breathed the same air as David Weir ( more on him to come). So when it came to the Paralympics I was fresh to the "tingle" everyone had joked about – that feel good factor that seemed to exist in the Park or at venues outside of it. So what caused it?
The sight of the stadium for the first time is enough to get you going. The walk from Hackney Wick to the International Broadcast Centre has a little treat in store just as you reach the security gate. Over a small bridge is a stretch of canal, silver in the sunshine which graced the Games, and sitting like a sparkly crown at the horizon is the Olympic Stadium – "this volcano of sport" BBC commentator Mike Costello called it as he brought it to life for listeners. Think of the Enchanted Castles of your childhood reading. That's what it looks like, sitting pretty in a part of London in dire need of rebirth.
The Games Makers at security set the tone for the day. No fuss, easy charm, and the kind of "have a good day" that doesn't set your teeth on edge. I quickly understood why the 80 thousand people in the stadium for the Olympic closing ceremony roared their approval during Lord Coe's speech. He rightly said he could have stood there silent for another hour and the roar wouldn't have stopped.
The silent grandeur of the Olympic Stadium is matched, outdone even, by its noisy contents. The sound of that crowd hits your bones before it hits your ears. I stood in for John Inverdale last weekend to broadcast from inside the stadium during the evening athletics. Feeling a little overawed by the prospect of anchoring such an event for three hours, I was soon at ease surrounded by experts like Costello, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Allison Curbishley.
Athletes I'd never seen in action before in the flesh left me with memories I'll never forget – David Weir, Jonnie Peacock, Jason Smyth, Michael McKillop, Hannah Cockroft, Aled Davies, Oscar Pistorius, Alan Oliveira. A Paralympic roll of honour to match any list of sporting legends. And that's just track and field. Ellie Simmonds in the pool, Sophie Christiansen in dressage, and Sarah Storey on her bike – wonderful examples for any young girl.
Weir trains in Richmond Park. Turns out it suits him. This quiet man had all our attention as he opened his games with a stunning victory in the 5,000m wheelchair race. The only GB athletics medals in Beijing's Paralympics were won by him and this time, too, he led the team by example and by the end he had won four gold medals. There's something of Sir Chris Hoy about him.
One of the sweetest moments for me came from a little girl whose Dad was holding her up onto a barrier in front of the BBC studio where I was broadcasting – bang in the middle of the Olympic Park. Bronze medal winner Jody Cundy was on air with me and every time he waved and displayed his medal, the thousands gathered below cheered and waved in appreciation. They were loud, let me tell you, but just as the noise subsided the girl, who can't have been more than four years old, whispered "Well done".
I'm going to let her have the last word. Well done, London.Reuse content