Four years ago, after the Chinese had done such an overwhelmingly impressive job hosting the world at the Beijing Olympics, Boris Johnson's acceptance of the Olympic flag had a frumpy, deprecatory air about it, as if the English weren't even going to bother to try to top the Chinese.
And of course I didn't go in person. But from everything I saw and everything I've read, it sure looks like Great Britain pulled off a simply splendid world party—and did it with enthusiasm, good grace, and appropriately high spirits. The London games had many memorable moments. And it would appear the host city and nation pulled the whole thing off with brio, élan, and nary a (significant) hitch.
Do you all still say "jolly good show" over there—or is that a cliché now? In any event, well done, U.K., well done—thanks for hosting the world. You did a great job.
(And congratulations on your great whacking heap o' gold, too. That was impressive.)
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Eric: "A personal story.
"When I moved to London from abroad 18+ years ago I found a country paralysed by strikes and splintered politically well into the process of winding down the Thatcher revolution. The election of Tony Blair in '96 briefly brought hope that that new third way solutions and Cool Britannia were the future. Shortly after we were rocked by the tragic death of Diana, mismangement leading to the Millennium Dome fiasco, followed by a series of shocking rail disasters leading to the deaths of commuters resulting from corporate malfeasance unacceptable in a first world country. Our National Health Service and educational system seemed in disarray. The country struggled with questionable techniques which the Blair gov't used to take us into a not terribly popular war in Iraq followed by another divisive war in Afghanistan.
"We won the bid for the 2012 Olympics with amazed disbelief in July 2007, and not 24 hours later London was rocked by 'home grown' terrorists attacking, injuring and killing our own people. Shortly after the attack, a young Brazilian man was murdered by the police who mistook him for a terrorist, symptomatic of a national suspicion which pitted different ethnic groups against each other. These were divisive times indeed.
"The Blair government became increasingly unpopular. Blair handed the baton of government to Gordon Brown without an election, and Brown, a taciturn and brooding man, well reflected the gloomy national mood. When the world economic crises struck in 2008 the U.K. and especially London were at the centre as we are arguably the largest financial centre on the planet. Our government had to nationalise banks and big payoffs to top bankers became a national scandal exacerbating the class issues which have long existed here.
"A new coalition government implemented an intense austerity budget which among other things led many to question its £9.3 billion ($15 billion) commitment to the Olympics even as much of that money reclaimed derelict polluted land in east London and rebuilt neglected infrastructure. We are a nation of whingers with long memories for slights. Unresolved issues of class, race and ethnicity are national wounds. Last August we were rocked and shamed by riots which partly resulted from failing social attitudes and policies on immigration and multiculturalism but also by the unabashed selfish greed of many of the rioters.
"The national skepticism that we could successfully take on as large a project as the Olympic games was palpable everywhere. We were a rudderless nation which was not comfortable in our own skin. We had clearly bitten off more than we could chew.
"That it rained almost constantly from April through to July this year seemed an ominous omen of just how much would go wrong once the Olympics began. And then at the last moment it because clear that the contractor G4S couldn't live up to their commitments to keep the games secure and were vastly understaffed The deployment of the army and the police and installation of missiles on the roofs of blocks of flats that we watched on the evening news conjured up the image of Britain the police state.
"I think nobody has been more shocked by the success of the games in their totality than we were. For the first time in my 18+ years living in the U.K. (where I'm now a citizen) I've experienced a palpable sense of national pride and identity among all of my countrymen of all colours, class and ethnicity. We, the often querulous peoples of the U.K. were over the last 17 days transmogrified into Team GB.