Brand GB – a good games

The Olympic Cauldron burns in front of the Union Jack and Olympic flag

Ask foreigners to describe Britain and they will often reflect on a people obsessed with their past and resigned to their fate. We have a reputation for reserved introspection.

The Diamond Jubilee presented a familiar British face to a watching world - street parties and formal ceremonial held, as might be seen as traditional, in the rain.

It was "red and gilt Britain", as one US journalist based here described it to me. And we are very good at it.

The expectation was that the Olympics would be conducted within the same colour palette. A London games, it was widely assumed, would resound to the echoes of past glories - a retrospective of an ancient island people.

But almost from the moment the clang of a giant golden bell announced the opening ceremony, it was clear that stereotypes were being challenged. The history was there. So was the Queen. But the tone was optimistic and self-deprecating - a portrait of a country aware of its shortcomings but surprisingly confident about its future.

And the games began - draped in dazzling pink and purple, orange and poppy-red. It was an audacious statement. London 2012 would be determinedly contemporary.

Olympics coverage online

Olympics images

For a moment the country held its breath. We had been warned to expect travel chaos, security meltdown and organisational incompetence. When a coach driver got lost bringing athletes to the Olympic Park, it seemed as though Britain was lining up for at least a bronze in bungling.

But it didn't happen. In fact, the teams of pandemonium correspondents assigned around the capital were forced to kick their heels or quickly develop an understanding of the finer points of dressage and rhythmic gymnastics.

Let's be clear. Putting on an Olympics is a massively complex task - what is known in the jargon as a "mega-project". It requires collaboration and planning on a breath-taking scale. And just one oversight or error has the capacity to destroy a host city's reputation and damage a country's image.

What we have seen over the past fortnight is an amazing success story. Far from exposing mediocrity and incompetence, the games have challenged lazy assumptions about what kind of country we are - not just to foreigners but to ourselves.

Each time we look at the medal table, we are encouraged to believe that we still have the capacity to punch above our weight in the world. Each time the TV cameras swoop over the smiling crowds in the Olympic venues, we are reminded that we can match anyone when it comes to putting on a show.

There is a danger of becoming giddy, like a love-struck teenager who assumes too much from a fortnight of summer adventure. The sugar-rush of sweet success is likely to be swiftly followed by the sickener of remembering just what economic and social challenges lie ahead for this country.

But let's not forget what some people predicted would happen: an embarrassing and chaotic two weeks during which all the flaws of our declining nation would be exposed.

Brand GB would have been horribly undermined and this country's reputation and prospects damaged for decades.

As it is, we have presented ourselves as competent, successful, confident and fun. To paraphrase Brucie - it's been a good games, my love, good games.

Mark Easton, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I was one of the doom and gloom merchants.

    I was hopelessly wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    50, I don't believe so. The power of celebrity and draw of the high street will over come the mini-break from life that the Olympics have provided. Once the afterglow wares off it will be back to the usual consumerism and conformity.
    The Olympics provides a vicarious thrill under the banner of nationality. Pride and country have no other purpose than to make countrymen conform. TV, highstreet etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Here's hoping Huw Edwards doesn't talk over all the music tonight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    They will probably think we are good at generating profits for the IOC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    More than anything else I feel these Olympics have given Britain a way to redefine our identity, something we've been struggling with, whilst it was on our doorstep all the time. The Olympics have been modern, dynamic and aestethic as a whole and quintessentially British in its reinvention of Britishness rather than a celebration of outdated values. We've entered the 21st century at last.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Well done team GB. Hope you keep your funding for the next games.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Before the games a very small minority shouted the loudest saying the country didn't want the Olympics here and a hundred reasons why they would be a complete disaster. However, once the games got here, the massive majority of us showed what we really think and made it a complete success. The problem woth this country is that the minority always shout louder than the majority and we listen to them

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    This is the best Olympics I can recall, but shame on LOCOG and the government for pitching the ticket prices far above what the average family could afford. We endured months of inconvenience as they spent millions on roads and roundabouts in Dorset for the traffic which never came. Now we will pay with our Council tax for decades to come, and yet we couldn't afford to participate in the games!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    One aspect was really noticeable – colour prejudice is history. We cheered our Brits whether they were black, brown or white. So hopefully we will hear no more facile descriptions such as: “a mixed race runner....” etc. Team GB members were all proud to be British; we were proud that they were British.

    Jack Harrison

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    After 2 weeks that have been fantastic for our nation , that has been world class in every respect , i just hope that our day to day press dont return to the things we hate the constant focus on celebrity , only football in sport ........ the stories and tales of wannabe nobodies who are talentless . I am so pleased GB women did so well , better role models there than Jordan and Cheryl Cole .

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    All we need to do is badger royal mail to paint postboxes in silver and bronze to honour the other medalists and we'll have probably had the best olympics GB has ever participated in.

    Lets hope our paralympians get just as much recognition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I met a German family in Maidenhead last week on their way to Eton Dorney (at the rail station). They said most of all they had felt welcomed and everyone had been extremely helpful.
    It made me think that we measure things like how good the venue is, how good the transport is etc. when what really counts is the people and how we look after our visitors - do we deserve a gold medal in hospitality ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Comment 32 ... Thank you Lucy J for those lovely words. And many congratulations to Team USA too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Enjoy the moment, enjoy the spectacle. The Games are a good reminder of what can be achieved and what people can achieve. Yes there is an economic crisis going on but we know this why bleat about it. We have to push on and make a success of everything. The Games has shown the world what we can do. You can achieve anything with hard work and desire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Give the BBC a couple of days and they will find all the negatives to broadcast. The Games have been fabulous but the BBc is such a negative organisation it should be banned

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Shove the Olympics anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Well I hope all those greedy pathetic individuals who threatened or took action for extra money or to improve their position will now hang their heads in shame and realise they will never amount to anything in life compared to what we have seen in the past two weeks. From the athletes to the volunteers, there are some people who make this country proud and then there are the others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    It has been a fantastic games, the only downside has been ticketing. Why cant seb coe admit they got it wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I'd have to agree it was a good games. But the biggest cloud which has over shadowed them is they had become the "Corporate Games". No seats should have been empty. They held out for the maximum money they could get. Lower income earners never got a look in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I love the BBC can't wait for the show tonight hope it is as mad and wonderful as the opening.


Page 28 of 30



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.