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After the Games: an Olympic reflection

The sun sets behind the Olympic rings on Tower Bridge. Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

They say what you don't know can't hurt you.

Maybe that's why so many were sceptical when London was first awarded the 'Greatest show on Earth.' After so long between visits from those five iconic rings, we didn't know what to expect. And maybe it was best not to find out.

How much it would cost and inconvenience us? Could it really be worth £11 billion? That's the equivalent of the entire Home Office spending for 2010-11. While the police force it funds is being radically cut back in the face of recession.So, now it's over, was it worth it? Financially? Of course not. It made no sense at all. But on a human level, the benefits will last far longer than any budget.

A Phoenix rises from the Olympic Flame during the Closing Ceremony. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Don't get me wrong, today every office in the country will have the cynics. You know who you are. A table full of half empty glasses. People who will, rightly, point to the £25m lottery funding for British swimming, who mustered just three medals. The lack of gold in the water will be today's water cooler conversation.

But it's not in the offices where it really counts. It's in the schools. Over the coming months, thousands of us adults will vow to take up rowing and running, tennis and taekwondo. But it's the children, inspired by those 29 golds, who will keep their promises. Especially if the curriculum is adjusted accordingly.

This new sporting fascination will be needed to fill the void after two weeks transfixed by our tellies. Many of us will enter the post-games era as deflated as Fat Boy Slim's giant octopus. We've been swept up in that most rare of occasions when we dare to beat our chests with fierce patriotism. The sort of thing we normally look down our noses at Americans for.

Fat Boy Slim performs during the Olympic Games Closing Ceremony. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

We've blinked in disbelief at the dizzying assault on the medal table. Don't be fooled by the 'best since 1908' statistic. It's better than that. Back in that first London games, the focus was less on our homegrown talent and more on our homegrown judges. We got twice as many medals as the USA, who shouted louder than a weightlifter during the clean and jerk. To no avail.

This time there can be no raised eyebrows.

We've loved discovering our new humble sporting heroes and heroines. Like fourth time lucky rower Katherine Grainger, the bonkers but brilliant track cyclist Laura Trott, and canoeists David Florence and Richard Hounslow who, rather than be sad at silver, roared with delight to see GB finish first and second.

Laura Trott celebrates with her Gold Medal for the Women's Omnium. Credit: Stephen Pond/PA Wire

Not to mention American sprinter Manteo Mitchell, who ran half of his 400m relay leg with a broken one. Refusing to drop out because 'I didn't want to let my teammates or my country down.'

There are things that won't be missed, of course. For tourists it's the near criminal overpricing of food, drink and £300 a night 3 star hotels. (At least we'll get some of that £11billion back) For Londoners it will be the Olympic lanes that have clogged up the City's arteries. For everyone, it's the word 'legacy.'

Radcliffe's Danny Boyle masterminded the acclaimed Opening Ceremony. Credit: AP Photo/Sang Tan

But you can't deny we've learned so much from London 2012.

Like the importance of a dressage horse's leg extension. That a turning head shot is worth three points in Taekwondo. And that BMX cyclists are on a death wish. Though I must admit, I still don't quite know what a Yuko is.

We've learned the Queen can act. That one can have a chuckle at ones self. And that her royal fingernails are even more fascinating than the entire Great British Olympic team as they enter the Olympic Stadium.

We've learned how, both in terms of time between home Olympics and the anticipation of that first gold medal, that good things really do come to those who wait.

It's been an education from day one.The opening ceremony's parade of nations had even the smartest observers reaching for their atlas or google maps searching for Comoros and Nauru. If you're from either of those doubtlessly beautiful places, please forgive our ignorance.

Bolton's Jason Kenny celebrates winning gold in the sprint. Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Thousands of Games fans from all those far flung places are now back home, telling stories of how the UK threw a sporting party with soul, humour and passion. How the British music scene, with the exception of (insert your least favourite closing ceremony act in here), is still the envy of the world, and how it actually doesn't rain every day.

Oh, and how we're all happy to pay £9.50 for fish and chips.

Well, what they don't know won't hurt them.

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