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The flame is extinguished and the stadia have emptied, indeed some for the last time in their existence. The madness of the last 17 days are but a memory now, confined to another chapter in the rich and glorious history of London. The 2012 Olympic Games have provided the capital with a canvas to display all that is good about this fair land to the eyes of the world, and for the most part the end result has been a masterpiece. We have invited the world in, and hopefully taught it a thing or two about our little island. But the introspective nature of such an event should not be overlooked, and it is with that in mind that I give you 10 things that we ourselves have learned over the past few weeks…

1. British people do actually know how to smile

The British Empire was not built on customer service, that much we know is true. While it is true to say that we are a polite bunch, in the classical Hugh Grant sort of way, our attitude towards customers has always been a million miles away from the American “have a nice day” with a beaming smile outlook.

At the park though all was different. The volunteers were all alight with joy. Smiles rained down on visitors, no question went unanswered, no problem unaided. Even the chap who told me to put my cigarette out was so nice about it that I contemplated giving up completely. Now that the games are over, they can all go back to scowling at people in Tescos, but for over a fortnight, it was nice to see that we Brits had happiness in our arsenal. It didn’t even rain that much either…

2. Without Bob Crow’s intervention, the Underground is a first-rate service

Whatever deal was struck with TFL for them to not act like enormous bellends during the games, it was entirely worth it. Far from being some sort of trench-warfare re-enactment, the Underground has never been better than it was for the Olympics. Trains arrived with clockwork regularity, none were too full, while the wealth of alternatives when travelling back from Stratford meant no trip to the games was too ghastly.

To put this in context, I attended the 100m final on the 5th, left as the stadium emptied, and got a seat on the tube home. I sometimes don’t even get a seat in my own living room… So well done TFL. Your mission now should be to maintain this quality, rather than regressing to the dreadful prickishness of your normal “service”.

3. We probably should have put a bit more thought into the closing ceremony

Where the opening ceremony was a pride-inducing masterpiece in quirky Britishness, you watched the closing ceremony with a sense of naff unease normally reserved for Royal variety concerts. There was an overriding feeling that the efforts to merge old and new were conducted randomly by pulling names out of a hat like an FA Cup draw, complete with little trivia snippets from Gary Lineker and Mark Bright:

“OK, number 7, that’s Pink Floyd (5 number one albums, over 250 million global album sales) will be played by… Number 742, that’s Ed Sheeran (small ginger weasel with a talent for selling James Blunt-like songs to housewives).”

“Oooh, big mismatch there. Chance of a massive upset, although I seriously doubt it…”

“Anyhow, next tie, number 2, The Beatles (15 number one albums, global sales of around a billion) will be performed by… Number 469, Russell Brand.”

“Not sure Russell’s going to cope with that one Gary. Although I suppose the prank-calling heroin addict has played a rock star in a film. Twice. So that probably qualifies him to fill in for John Lennon…Somehow.”

It almost came as a bit of a relief when the Spice Girls came on, as at least they were butchering their own songs. Plus it had the added amusement factor of making every woman under 40 think they were 13 again, mouthing along to the words before looking around rather sheepishly as they realised everyone was staring at them… A level of self-consciousness that evidently evaded Boris Johnson, who was skanking to Wannabe with the sort of vigour that implied that he had just returned from a rather lively dinner with the Bullingdon Club.

“What??? You want me to sing it again???”

It seemed odd as well, that with 50 years of the best music this country has ever produced to choose from, Emeli Sandé was asked to sing Read All About It roughly half a dozen times, but perhaps they had spent all the budget on re-animating the corpse of Ray Davies and needed someone to fill in the gaps… Anyhow, mercifully Eric Idle saved the day. So we can hand over proudly to Brazil, where presumably the ceremony will involve 100,000 people doing the Macarena.

4. Handball is excellent

The merciless Niklas Ekberg slots another past France in the final…

A lot of people smirked at the prospect of Handball being an Olympic sport. People laughed at the idea of football… but played with hands. Surely that’s too easy? Surely that’s not a proper sport?

A fortnight later and those cynics have been silenced. Handball, with the assistance of ‘party venue’ the Copper Box, has taken the games by storm. Fast-paced, exciting and skilful, the sport is surely in pole position to ride a post-Olympic surge in popularity. Mixing the hectic end-to-end nature of Basketball with elements of football, hockey and water polo, the sport proved why certain central European nations are so obsessed with it. I’m off to find my local club. It might not be very local.

5. The Aussies aren’t good at everything

Isn’t it amazing?

6. Don’t make Ben Ainslie angry

Ainslie: You won’t like him when he’s angry…

As I’m sure Jonas Hogh-Christensen and Pieter-Jan Postma would attest, this just isn’t a good idea. Three-time gold medallist Ainslie was lying in 5th, around halfway through the competition, when the Danish and Dutch sailors accused him of hitting a bouy. Ainslie reluctantly completed the penalty turn, before roaring past both boats to win the race, standing up on his boat and gesturing at the Dane. When asked about the incident in a post-race interview, he said “They’ve made me angry and you don’t want to make me angry.”

He wasn’t wrong. Ainslie went on to win 3 of the next 5 races before vindictively destroying Hogh-Christensen in the medal race and claiming gold. His rivals will be glad that Ben’s not going to Brazil in four years time… Especially if he’s in a huff.

7. We should become a military state

Our armed forces are phenomenal. Why not make the best use of them? Every time you entered an event, you were greeted by a friendly man or woman with a smile, a cheeky joke… and a massive machine gun. What’s not to like about that?

8. People posting pictures of themselves doing the “Usain” in front of the stadium is neither big nor clever

Oh, how amusing and original of you. You’ve just replicated what every other tosser in the park has done. Bravo. Now share it on Facebook, then everyone will know how uniquely humorous you are.

9. Kazakhstan are in it to win it

7 golds, 1 silver. That was the Kazakhs’ record in ‘finals’. To ram home how bizarre that is, look at the other two countries who secured the same number of golds: Japan took home 14 silvers, while Australia (whose athletes at times looked like they were aiming for 2nd place) secured 16. Kazakhstan’s athletes clearly had an all-or-nothing mentality that came off in spectacular style. Hats off to them, that’s the Olympic spirit. Let’s hope the fans back home go lightly on solitary runner-up Adilbek Niyazymbetov…

10. This picture is the best thing since sliced bread

If there’s one image to sum up the games, this is it…


Over to you, Brazil!

by Harry Harland