You can doubt concrete parts of the Olympic legacy, but there's no questioning its spirit

A run around the Olympic Stadium offers hope for the future

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The Independent Online

Entering the cauldron of noise that is the Olympic Stadium as a runner and sprinting down the finishing straight to glory is a pretty amazing feeling. I should know because on Sunday - puce-faced and puffing like Thomas the Tank Engine - I did it too.

The prize was not so much superhuman triumph as the promise of a bottle of water and a nice sit-down but, together with my 10-year-old daughter and 2,498 others, I took part in the National Lottery Anniversary Run around the Olympic Park.

The grand finale of our 2.5km trot around the site of the London Games was the chance to enter at athlete level the stadium that was the spine-tingling epicentre of the Olympics and Paralympics - following in the footsteps of Farah, Ennis, Bolt et al by running once around the famous track.

As one of the journalists who covered the 2012 Games a year ago, I had the privilege and sensory-overload of a ringside seat for many of the defining moments of last summer's sporting banquet by sitting in the stadium day after fascinating day.

And so it was to the echoes of the Olympics - literally as it turned out because the stadium PA system was playing a recording of Steve Cram's commentary of Mo Farah's 10,000m triumph - that I entered that arena as a puffing fun runner 12 months later, watching my daughter Niamh disappear into the distance like a greyhound as she lived her own moment of triumph in a headlong dash for the finishing line.

But amid the nostalgia and aching limbs, what was really left in the Olympic Park and beyond of the magic and spirit of the heady month of London 2012?

At first blush, the signs were less than promising. Where once there was the excited throng and a forest of sporting arenas, there are now diggers, building sites and a whole lot of scaffolding. The park is being re-made and re-modelled in time for a full re-opening next year but, for now, a fun run through its grand esplanades is like a jog through a B&Q marshalling yard.

This is a temporary state of affairs. Architectural gems such as the velodrome and Zaha Hadid’s swimming pool will soon be in use and by 2016. My football team, West Ham, will be the main tenants of the Olympic Stadium after a £150m conversion largely funded by the taxpayer.

The lager-enhanced buzz brought by the Hammers will be a very different beast from the Olympian spirit.

And yet, as we queued for the start of Sunday's run, the excitement that the Olympic Park generates was still there. People had come from far and near - a number of places had been reserved for residents of the host borough of Newham - for the chance to see what this most tangible part of the London 2012 legacy looks like and live it just a little.

In many ways it is and will be impressive. The Government insists that the economy is £10bn to the better and this corner of east London, with its flowered gardens, gladiatorial arenas and the shiny Temple of Mammon that is the adjoining Westfield shopping centre, is utterly transformed.

But the question marks remain about what we have really learned from that great sporting jamboree last July and August.

The step-change in the nation’s participation in exercise has yet to emerge and MPs warn today that the Olympic legacy on school sport is “on life support”.

Amid the excitement of yesterday's run - which with a 5km race run by 12,500 people was the first large-scale event since the Games - I glimpsed the purple and orange shirt of one of the Olympic volunteers whose enthusiasm and bonhomie was the real flesh on the bones of the hard infrastructure of London 2012.

With this one exception, the Olympic volunteers were of course absent on Sunday.

Were they and the once-in-a-lifetime spirit that made London the most vital city on earth last summer missed? Yes of course. But harping on about how great it all was and how nothing will ever quite match those giddy heights is pointless and, more importantly, misses the point.

After the run each participant was handed a medal bearing the inscription, “I followed in the footsteps of legends”. So we did.

But what really counted for me was the sight of my daughter sprinting with all her might along that bouncy Olympic track and saying afterwards that one day she would like to do it for real.

So, goodbye London 2012. Hello imperfect but still dreaming future.