Hyde Park is all empty and forlorn. The thundering herds of Olympics visitors have gone. They are tearing down the BT London Live viewing point only hours after tens of thousands cheered Mo Farah as he blasted into Olympic history. (I defy you to watch the last minute of his 5000m gold medal run without jumping up and cheering.) Even the weather was melancholy today after a fortnight of glorious sunshine and cool breezes.
I've discovered myself to be running with my hands held as blades. Coincidence? Doing the Mobot can't be far behind.
Every Londoner I know was initially totally cynical about the Games. And every single Londoner I know, every resident of the UK really, has been totally seduced by it. It has just been a completely magical time for London, and for all of Britain. The games brought out in glorious vividness all that is best about this scepter'd isle. That Team GB gathered gold like posies was just icing on the cake.
I'm by no means the only Londoner who actually got preemptively depressed about the end of the Games. (Only yesterday a colleague, totally unprompted, hit me with this.) What do we do now? What's left to be thrummingly happy and excited about? What do you do when you're no longer the centre of the world?
Or aren't we? Here are some excerpts from a bunch of pieces all on the Telegraph Comment page that sum it up better than I'm prepared to attempt…
For many of us something very similar is happening again: the triumph, the unashamed delight, the astonishing communal exuberance. Even people accustomed to being amid cheering crowds are coming back from Olympic venues on land, water and sand staggered by the raucous joy of it all.
How many wept when Mo, the Somali refugee who came to London as a child and grew great here, surged to the front achieving what we hoped for but have never seen before? These Olympics are magnificent… the bliss they have brought is priceless.
The Games have been the most dramatic possible lesson in the virtues of ambition, hard work and competition. They are the opposite of the something-for-nothing culture.
They have been a particular triumph for British women, and for female emancipation in general. It was great to see that female judo competitor from Saudi Arabia the first in history. She may have got squashed, but Saudi women will never look back…
We have seen a country at ease with its past, capable of sticking a ritzy beach volleyball court in the middle of Horse Guards Parade, or its monarch in a sketch about a spy and a helicopter. But that narrative must also encompass the tolerance that welcomed Mo Farah when he arrived as a child from Somalia and which has been rewarded with one of the best pictures of the Games, the sight of Britain’s greatest distance runner wrapped in a flag, hugging his wife and child, applauded to the skies.
If children languishing in difficult circumstances can suddenly feel that they can change their lives, they can dream and have the means to fulfil those dreams, then the legacy of this Games will be immense. Britain has begun to remember the country it can be.
We were told that the Games had grown so large, the demands of the IOC and its commercial partners so extortionate, that they would overwhelm even a city such as London. In the event, the Olympics did not dominate London: London dominated the Olympics. From the inspired placement of the venues, drawing on the capital’s matchless architectural heritage, to the raucous crowds who packed out every stadium, this was an event that was about the people, not the VIPs.
Britain is already trying to work out how to cling to the optimism and delight of the past two weeks. But it is worth the IOC’s panjandrums considering how they, in turn, can preserve the humanity and good humour that have characterised London 2012.
How good London’s historic buildings look, cluttered around with Olympic stuff. It is quite moving and unexpected… I had thought that the Olympics would sink the beauties of London in a tawdry maze of crowd-control meshing and vending points. I was wrong. The buildings stand out poignantly in the watery sunshine. London emerges as a living city, its heart beating faster for the Olympics.
Cynical hacks who have experienced the ravages of war started crying during the Opening Ceremony, and they haven’t stopped since. All over Stratford, there are people smiling and weeping, often at the same time.
The mood here in the Park has been incredible to watch. Not once has a volunteer flagged. At no point have I seen a soldier look miserable… I am as happy as I have ever been in London. I don’t think anything will ever be as special as this.