As parades go, it was pleasant enough.

City boys wolf-whistled at Victoria Pendleton. Office girls took photos of Chris Hoy on their mobile phones and zoomed in on the triple-layered bling around his neck. Natasha Danvers-Smith warned autograph hunters to "watch out for the horse-poo" left by the mounted police escort.

What was missing, as the 12 floats rolled slowly from Mansion House through to Trafalgar Square, was the giddy-eyed Olympic fever which had gripped the nation back in the summer.

There might well have been good reasons why the parade had to be delayed until the middle of October - planning issues, traffic control, the busyness of the Queen's social diary - but it was hard to escape the feeling that the moment had passed.

London on a bright but chilly October morning is a very different place to smoggy Beijing at the height of summer, and a lot has changed since the gold rush in August.

The feelgood factor engendered by that record-breaking medal haul has been replaced the doom of financial meltdown and gloom of impending recession.

From Peking Duck to Chicken Licken in just two months. No wonder the mood was a little muted.

The athletes themselves were enjoying themselves. While no-one opted to play the Freddie Flintoff role - at least not until they'd arrived at Buckingham Palace - the Olympians and Paralympians waved cheerily at the mix of office workers, cycle couriers and confused tourists who lined the route.

Phillips Idowu looked happy in proximity to his silver medal, which certainly didn't happen in Beijing. Nicole Cooke waved with the tireless enthusiasm that only an endurance athlete could manage. Tim Brabants went post-modern and videoed people videoing him being videoed.

For Christine Ohuruogu, the day was testament to the life-changing power of a few short seconds of Olympic success - going from presenting a Mobo award at Wembley Arena to standing in Nelson's shadow in Trafalgar Square to tea with the Queen.

For the first time in weeks, a few bankers were even spotted smiling.

There was a lovely moment when the cavalcade inched past the Australian embassy, and the pavement suddenly became bereft of cheering punters for a short section.

A bronze medal for barefaced cheek also goes to the enterprising spiv seen selling St George's flags to the Japanese tourists who wanted to join in the fun. Probably a good job Hoy and Cooke were looking the other way.

But it was certainly not a celebration like those that followed the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and the Ashes in 2005.

No-one was cavorting in the Trafalgar Square fountains. The only schoolchildren who were allowed off lessons to come along for the day were Tom Daley and Eleanor Simmonds. Half-term's only just round the corner, too.

Maybe that's a good thing. Those other two parades were later seen as the hubristic reason for the respective teams' subsequent decline.

For everyone involved in Beijing, this was probably the moment that a line was drawn under their extraordinary exploits.

Rebecca Adlington, revealing she had been offered free burger and chips for life by the Yates pub renamed in her honour, said she felt less fit then she could ever remember. Hoy spoke wistfully of being able to finally return to the "day-job" in a couple of weeks.

A few miles east in Stratford, the steel structure of the Olympic stadium is now visible above ground.

For the athletes and those of us who watched their performances with delight, it's all about 2012 from now on in.

Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist covering a wide range of events in Beijing. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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