Is Britain an Olympic superpower?
There was a wonderful moment towards the end of Five Live Sport's London 2012 special last week when co-host Steve Parry got a bit carried away with the excitement of it all and declared that Britain had become an "Olympic superpower".
My initial reaction was to think, "Steady on, Steve, does superpower status really go down as far as fourth place in the table?" I'm fairly sure there were only two superpowers after all the medals were dished out in 1945.
And shouldn't we perhaps do it a few more times to suggest we have really arrived? After all, England were a rugby union superpower in 2003, and I'm sure there was talk of cricket supremacy in 2005. Might it be an idea to try this under-promise, over-deliver stuff my wife has mentioned in relation to my DIY skills?
And then I thought again (it happens). Why shouldn't Steve call it as he sees it?
Because if you're willing to look beyond the rattling of football's transfer window - who would have thought that Jonathan Ross is now worth only one and a bit Craig Bellamys? - it's possible to find evidence Parry might be on to something. And last week that evidence was in ready supply.
Youth sport doesn't get much of a look-in, media-wise, in this country, even football.
Perhaps the most encouraging performance of recent years by (male) footballers in an England shirt came at the 2007 European Under-21 Championships in the Netherlands. The team was minutes away from the final - England's first in the competition since 1984 - when the hosts scored to send the game to extra time. Penalties followed, 32 of them, and you can probably guess the rest.
The team's Dutch courage attracted some interest but the bigger story for most was David Bentley's decision not to play in the tournament so he could rest up for the upcoming Premier League campaign.
But the main point is that it was a rare good showing by a British team at that level. Italy has dominated the competition for 20 years. Need I say more?
So that is why I was so impressed with Team GB's showing at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival, a five-day multi-sports event for 13 to 19-year-olds.
Britain's tally was 68 medals, 26 of them gold: a significant improvement on the fine AYOF debut they made in 2007, when they went home with 14 golds in their 48-medal haul, and more than enough to suggest there is more to come from our Olympians in 2012 and beyond.
What was most encouraging about the performances was their range. Team GB sent competitors for 11 of the 17 sports on the schedule. It won golds in nine of those and medals in all but one.
There was the customary return on investment from rowing - seven golds, two silvers and three bronzes - and further evidence that British gymnastics is on a rapid upward curve - five golds, five silvers and eight bronzes.
But even more impressive were the results posted by fencing and shooting, both winning eight medals, four gold for the fencers and three for the shooters: impressive and surprising given recent 2012 funding announcements.
OK, most of the powerhouses of the piste from Europe were absent, as were many of the top Asian shooting nations, but there were 22 other national teams at the festival, with major delegations from China, Japan and the US, as well as a massive Australian team.
These medals weren't just handed out for turning up - the AYOF is a proven testing ground for future Olympic success.
There were 2007 AYOF-ers in British colours in Beijing, two of whom, gymnast Louis Smith and rower Tom Lucy, medalled at both events. You might also have heard of another of the eight, diver Tom Daley. And the Australians have been using the AYOF as a dry run for its first team since 2001.
In fact, so seriously do the Australians take this event they almost didn't invite us - they were worried it would help our 2012 preparations, an offence tantamount to treason after our "Olympic Ashes" success in Beijing.
So those medals for fencing and shooting, two sports that are still waiting to hear what their (greatly reduced) budgets for London 2012 will be, mattered.
As GB fencing coach Graham Watts said after watching his squad claim the men's and women's team titles: "This was way more than I hoped for. I expected us to medal, because we are such a strong team, but to win all gold is just absolutely fantastic."
Not bad for a sport whose "performance pipeline" was supposed to be too dry to warrant lubricating over the next four years (and yes, fencing fans, I have noticed Richard Kruse's recent results too).
I could pick out similar statements from coaches throughout the British team but it would become a bit repetitive and I'd almost certainly upset somebody by forgetting them.
But before I move on I'd like to give a special mention in despatches to one of Britain's last gold-medal winning teams in Sydney, the women's hockey squad. They repeated their 2007 success by beating Australia in extra time. Enough said.
So where else are those green shoots of superpower status popping up, then?
Well, it's early days yet but there are signs there is something stirring under the ice and snow too. Winter sport, for decades the poor relation in the British Olympic family, is also on the up.
The British Olympic Association likes to keep tabs on our global standing during non-Olympic years by totting up results in leading competitions. While last year saw empirical proof of Britain's progress on the summer schedule, Team GB also climbed from 25th to 12th in the unofficial winter pecking order.
That rise was down to Kristan Bromley's gold at the Skeleton Bob World Championships, the Scottish men's silver at the curling worlds and a men's relay bronze at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.
So it doesn't include the gold Shelley Rudman (who claimed a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics and currently leads the World Cup rankings) won at the European Skeleton Bob Championships earlier this month, or Sinead and John Kerr's European ice dance bronze, Britain's first medal at that level for 15 years.
These are superbly encouraging results with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver now just a year away.
Will they strike fear into the US, Russia and the Alpine nations? No, probably not. But you can bet the rest of the world is looking closely at our lottery-funded sports model and wondering what else we're doing right.
You can also forgive the likes of Steve Parry, who won Britain's first Olympic swimming medal for eight years in Athens, for lapsing into hyperbole when discussing Team GB's fortunes.
He remembers a (not too distant) time when a plucky bronze or 10th in the medal table was the Everest of our ambitions. He's not jealous of this, he is encouraged and energised.
So is Britain an Olympic superpower? Nah. But I know what Steve means, and I like it.