Grace Dent: Soon the only thing uniting us will be Sharon's comeback in Eastenders

What have we learnt? That we can win tons of things. And that a Saudi woman could run the 800m in a headscarf and the sky didn't fall in
  • @gracedent

As we edge closer to the end of the Olympics, many terminal mooches have informed me this lovely "feel-good" factor swaddling the nation CANNOT last. And, to be fair, they're damn right. In a fortnight's time – post Paralympics – without gold medals to win, Great Britain's greatest unifying cultural stimulus will be Sharon Watts coming back in EastEnders, Jodie Marsh's love life and the DFS Sale. And obviously, all these things are magical, but fail to see me reaching for an enormo-lanyard, mopping my leaky eyes at the splendour of human endeavour. I do, however, believe "stuff we felt and learned" during the Games might be useful.

For example, it turns out that Great Britain and Northern Ireland can win things. Tons of things. And it turns out we loved winning things and could aloud we loved winning without worrying it made us ruthless pigs, impolite oafs, a bit Tory, total Nazis or "a bit too much like bloody Americans". We learn that a Saudi woman could run the 800 metres in a headscarf and the sky didn't fall in, in fact the world barely noticed.

We learned that east London could live with an increased police presence and we all got on swimmingly. We learned that the Army could sail in and guard east London and turned out to be a bunch of charmers, in fact the fact they'll be scooting off to more serious matters soon makes me rather sniffly. They're just teenagers for God's sake. Teenagers in khaki checking handbags and getting hit on by approximately 180 women an hour. We saw tons of women on TV presenting, which meant women throwing to other women throwing back to the studio to yet more women, discussing women's sporting achievements, not showbiz.

Tons of women competing were hefty or hairy or plain-looking or didn't wear makeup, extend their eyelashes, dye themselves brown or even have a hairstyle. Unkempt anti-dollybirds on telly being strong and warrior-like. Oh and we all broke free of our Sky+ planners and iPlayers and watched TV again together in real time and chatted about it without worrying about "spoilerz" and hot damn it was sort of brilliant.

The Worlds Biggest Sofa. Shift up, I'm looking at Mark Cavendish's lovely cow eyes, you can have a go with the Thorpedo. Before the Olympics there was a mithering assertion from politicians, the media and "wangs who've driven me in cabs" that Britons are work-shy and unemployable. But then the scores of Olympic Games-makers and volunteers turned out to be brilliant, smiling, helpful and hardworking.

An opening ceremony was created which broke the mould of how we celebrate "who we are", sweeping aside the usual HRHs clomping about in war medals praising posh people, giving us something chaotic, full of soot and smelting and modern music saluting centuries of working class toil. And almost everyone accepted it warmly – aside from one mesmerising berk on a newspaper online blogging section – and re-learned that things that had been hyped would be good, could sometimes turn out to surpass expectations. But, for me, the most important thing many of us learned was to relax ever so slightly our inherent knee-jerk cynicism to any speckle of niceness on our horizon.

So if someone says "Gosh, didn't Chad Le Clos's dad look happy on telly?", it became fine to answer simply "Yes, what a nice bloke with his wobbly belly" and NOT sneer loudly then clang everyone around the head with a lecture on Sun City, the ANC and the current rape conviction rate. Not that these aren't important matters, but sometimes, sometimes, the warmth, the froth and the silliness is just as enriching too. And I happen to love the silliness. If there was gold medal for that, I'd be on the podium for Team GB centre-stage.