I’m writing this on the train to Manchester, where I will be downing a few plateloads of pasta, trying to get a decent sleep, then waking up to the prospect of a bike ride to Birmingham to help raise funds for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research Pedal for Petrov campaign.
As I do so, I am reflecting rather sadly that I have probably – unless Rio screw up and London gets asked late on to do 2016 as well – seen my last day of live Olympic and Paralympic action on home soil. Once in a lifetime indeed. And without doubt one of the best things to happen in Britain in our lifetime too.
I was lucky enough to see loads of Olympic athletics, including Usain Bolt’s wins and the even better performance of Kenya’s David Rudisha, loads of cycling, including Chris Hoy’s final race, and loads of Paralympics sport too, which I enjoyed just as much if not more than the Olympics.
Britain is bound to suffer something of a hangover, and a feeling of let down. I am missing it already, because tonight I am travelling and tomorrow I will be doing the bike ride and then a fundraising dinner at Villa Park, home of leukaemia victim Stiliyan Petrov’s club. So all we have are the memories. But we also have the opportunity to use the success of the Games to build a lasting legacy through sport, regeneration, and through trying to hang on to the spirit of positivity that has been palpable going around London and the rest of the UK.
David Cameron let us down in failing to raise sport up the ministerial ladder in his frankly bizarre reshuffle. But there is still plenty of time, plenty of energy, plenty of commitment of many people in and out of government, to make sure we do not go the way of Sydney, Athens and Beijing, where there are mixed but often negative views of the lasting impact of the Games.
We can certainly make the case that the Olympics were the best ever, though others may disagree. But there can be no disagreement whatever with the statement that the Paralympics were the best ever.
Of course the infrastructure, the organisation and the quality of the sport in both Games have been a huge part of that. But so have the Games Maker volunteers and ambassadors, who have been integral to this new mood in the air. They will find it as hard as anyone to come back to earth. The athletes go back to their countries, and carry on with their sport. The politicians will move on to the party conferences. The sponsors will get on with their businesses, the spectators will get on with their lives. But this will have been such an amazing experience for so many volunteers and I reckon a lot of them will find life a bit hard for a while.
At least they have had due recognition, from public and athletes alike. Indeed it is the athletes who have led the way in calling on all the volunteers and ambassadors to wear their uniforms for just one more day – Parade Day, Monday – not least so that the rest of us can just go up to them wherever we see them, and say two very simple words – Thank You.
— Finally, I am one half of the Observer debate tomorrow. The other half is Danny Kelly, who is defending the booing of George Osborne. Despite my dislike of Osborne’s policies and politics, I am not.
All the best to everyone involved in the last two days of the greatest show on earth. And to anyone who wants to reward those of us riding from Manchester to Birmingham tomorrow, visit http://www.leukaemialymphomaresearch.org.uk and go to Pedal for Petrov, or donate by texting Stan91 plus the amount to 70070. We start from Albert Sq around 8am and Ryan Giggs having been out in support today, tomorrow the blue side of Manchester is on parade in the form of Mike Summerbee and Paul Lake