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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    I think we should spare a thought for those poor aussies, who will now have to work out how to convince themselves that Hungary and Kazakhstan are really super powers compared to poor little australia.

    Ha ha ha.

    Bring on the real Ashes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    #57, I'll agree with you that Jake Humphry is a natural presenter but he epically fails in moving forward or informing a broadcast. Born out of media-courses his delivery is keep-talking-and-maybe-no-one-will-notice-that-I'm-wasting-airtime. He is epically short on content and his F1 presenting is look at me ego bananas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Lets noot forget that this was the FIRST time that the UK has hosted a games it has won. In 1908 we said we would do it rather than see it cancelled and similarly in 1948.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Holding the Olympics was a huge gamble-just think about all of the things that potentially could have gone wrong from the trivial to the tragic. At the start of their coverage a certain US media conglomerate were desperate for bad stories about London 2012-they've been disappointed. The gamble has paid off, a huge (and perhaps unexpected) success.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    The media has had hang ups about Racism

    First John Terry, then the European Football Championships.

    Why not follow the Olympics and cheer all competitors to the rafters.

    We are a multicultural country and we support all teams irrespective of colour race or place of birth. If only The Premiership and media could learn this lesson.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I hold my hand up as someone who had expected a totally mis-managed and incompetent embarrassment as the Olympics. I was totally wrong in my expectations! There are still questions about some aspects of it in terms of money and fees paid, but what it shows to me is investment works; and private companies cannot match the skills of the armed services and the police in handling it all. Well done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    What will make it an excellent games is if we can use our medalists to replace the "Jordans" of this world to act as role models for our youngsters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I think the recommendations for two hours a day P.E should start now with a hand picked trial group - Aiden Burley, Morrisey, Mitt Romney, Rupert Murdoch, Martin Durkin, Toby Young, NBC and all the rest of you, put those notes from your mother away, put your shorts on, cut along to the playing fields, your new games teachers, Ms Ennis and Mr Fara are waiting for you.... hope you like push-ups :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I was one of the people that didn't want it and had no intentions of watching it but infact got hooked watching it for 2 weeks. Enjoyed it 99%, would have been 100% if I didn't have to watch Clare Balding everday!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Well let's be honest about it!
    Everything successful about our Olympics happened after the control was taken away from the polititions!
    Let's hope the lesson we take from the Olympics is we normally do a better job the less polititions we have in charge of our affairs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I must admit, before the games I was massively ambivalent towards them, and I still think that had we known about the recession it would have been better to not bid. That being said, we could not see the future, and the games have blown me away for the past 2 weeks. Now we can only hope the legacy of these games is just as successful...

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Re comment 32
    Dearest Lucy J
    WW2 ended 67 YES 67 Years ago.
    And we did not suffer half as much as the French, Dutch, The Netherlands, Norwegians, Belgians, Poles, Czechs, Russians and over half of Europe, and I have not mentioned Jews.
    You really need to get a life and read your history books.
    Remember, TWENTY FIVE MILLION Russians alone gave their lives to give you free speech.
    I was there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    No way of knowing what other people think but these games have only reinforced my opinions about the disunited kingdom.

    A handful of millionaires associated with the tory party have made yet more millions.

    Meanwhile ordinary people have had to work for free and hard pressed small traders have been frozen out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Maybe, as almost every athlete has mentioned how important their funding has been, the lesson should be:

    Investment works !

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.


    Nice of you to mention Lord Coe and the IOC who were paid millions, don't forget the freebies for Cameron and his friends or Boris the buffoon, what a really spiffing way to blow billions of taxpayers money to increase the profits of Cocacola and MacDonalds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I'm hoping they do a commemorative Boris teddybear ............

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Doesn't matter too much how others see us, its how we see ourselves.

    The legacy of thses games will be we are still a proud country and a great place to live....our citizens will benifit from this.

    POerhaps the GB doubters can now crawl back into their holes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Lets pause for a moment and turn to the absolutely stunning coverage provided by the BBC. I was shocked (did not think the BBC had it in them)and in awe of the final product. I take it all back BBC - you were nothing short of brilliant. One last word for Jake Humphries - he was by far the best and most natural presenter during the fortnight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    We're part of a tiny island archipeligo - and third after America and China in the Olympic medal table. That is why this little lsand deserves the pre-nominal it has always had - Great Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Mm...well I really enjoyed that.
    Thank you very much.
    The bill please.


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