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 Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Lets capture this fantastic example of the best of British in our schools workplaces and social life. Down with negativity, sucks boo to celebrity culture, and hooray for the majority of our youth who showed the world and the rioters the way forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    I'm a volunteer, it's been the best experience I've had so far. I travelled through Beijing 4 years ago and +ve buzz the volunteers had has carried on. I've seen London turn into an amazingly positive and friendly place to be, I've seen awesome performances from GB athletes and I've had such fun. We've turned into a nation of people who are celebrating success. I passionately hope this continues

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I was dreading the Olympics. I watched the opening ceremony and enjoyed it although BBC commentary was poor. I didn't watch any of the sport, I hate sport, but did watch the medal stats and we have done well. I don't agree that this means we need to spend millions on sport, or that we should force kids to enjoy it. Now can BBC broadcast some proper TV? It was saturation and excluded me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Great Britain Reigns: All athletes taking part are medal worthy. Strike a gold medal for pessimists who, unlike the great sports contestants, unfortunately are with us all the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Well done all. And stop with your "It's grim up North" but that's how we like it comments redrobb. The southeast paid out more taxes to the games so get more back we hope. We move forward not back to my granddad vote for ..... my dad voted for ...... so I will vote for. Great Games ( I did not watch it ) But live near.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    77. TalkTorque
    "...Also that many regional sports facilities have neffectively had their status destroyed .What was wrong with Bisley and Holme Pierrepoint?"
    The Olympics were awarded to London, not to Great Britain or England. They are always hosted by a single city, with the exception of some of the football tournament. That's why all the events took place in London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Oh for goodness sake, I can't believe there are people still trying to put this down!!
    It has been amazing. My children have been so inspired by this. They are proud to be part of a country that can do something so spectacular, from the opening ceremony right through to the end.
    We are proud of what has been acheived during the last 2 weeks. Sad it is coming to an end tonight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I am very proud to be British and proud of having been a part of the last two weeks working for our Police Force. We all should be proud of what everyone has achieved from the athletes to the volunteers, to the armed forces to the TFL staff! Well done London, you done us proud

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.


    Eh ?

    I'm not a massive fan of Labour but they bid and won the games in the first place.

    I also think you'll find the 'right-wingers' wouldn't be happy with all that multi culturalism going on.

    Maybe the new thinking of 'right wingers' is investment works ?

    Ah well, I bet you'll soon be busy working out how to stop any benefits anyone in the Paralympics may be getting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    so the olympics & investing in sport is a waste but we are quite happy to pay billions to treat obesity? estimated £6.3bn per yr by 2015 & rising, not inc the cost of heart disease & diabetes. all related to poor diet & lack of exercise

    wake up to the bigger picture time. medals will inspire a generation of kids to put down the xbox & take up a sport. A win for the nhs & us all

    amazing olympics

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    94. Malintrepid22
    Well There you go lets have all of the negative mean minded left wing looneys on to be-moan spending on a fantastic event.
    If all you want is have a go at lefties, do it somewhere else. I am from the left of you and thoroughly enjoyed these Olympics and been looking forward to them from the day LABOUR won them for us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The last two weeks have been absolutely fantastic. A brilliant advert for all of GB not just London. Although I don't think we'll get all of our £10bn back.

    Also have to mention Steve Cram's commentary on the 5000 meters last night was brilliant, he too should be given a gold medal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Sounds good that the closing ceremony will showcase the best of british music,but how can this include the Spice Girls, yer havin a laf. Spice Girls YOU CAN NOT BE SERIOUS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Nothings broken
    Were still here
    We have shown we can rise to the occassion
    Well organised, with the biggest smile from the dustman to the Queen
    Just shows that we can still mess with the so called best and win.
    Well done Team GB and everyone who turned up to work and watch

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Bravo! Isn't it nice to be proud to be British for a change? Hopefully it'll help people to lose their lager lout/stiff British Empire view of us.

    I was super sceptical but have really enjoyed the Olympics, even if from afar via the net (I live in Cornwall).

    Olympic withdrawal imminent!

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Love the myth about "cash-strapped" athletes. I wish someone would give me £70k to do nothing for 4 years except fire arrows in a field or teach a horse to dance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I see them as the same Pompous People as they were before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    They will love our organisers fortitude, persuading 70,000 people to work for nothing, and pay their own expenses, for two weeks, when there are 2.5 million people unemployed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Ok, I agree it has been good, in fact excellent in parts! But I'm afraid the feel good factor will be coming to a close shortly after the games have ended. As per normal London has benefited the most, there are other parts of the country where it meant nothing! We don't have the economical growth promised, Mr C & Mr O you're on borrowed time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Here come da trolls....


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