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What the Games meant to us Brits

Rob Stares

Britain hasn't felt this optimistic in a long time - GB Mag explains why

What the Games meant to us Brits
The British rowing teams lap up the applause on the victory parade. Photo: Mathew Williams

PLEASE FORGIVE us Brits if we seem a little misty-eyed over the coming weeks. After agonising for years whether we would be able to successfully host (and compete at) an Olympic games in our own country, we’ve come to realise that we can do both – and do them very well!

In fact, we did so well in the four-and-a-bit weeks of competition that our Olympic and Paralympic teams became the most successful we’ve had in over a century. GB Mag’s resident Brit went to cheer on Team GB and Paralympics GB at their victory parade through London, and celebrates the diverse and vibrant make-up of modern Britain:

“With the euphoric Paralympic Closing Ceremony still fresh in our minds from the night before, up to 1 million people crammed into London’s streets to give Team GB and Paralympics GB one last hurrah in typically British style, as they were ceremoniously paraded across the capital on 21 floats.

After hosting the Royal Wedding and The Queen’s Jubilee in the past 12 months, us Brits are definitely well-rehearsed on how to put on a parade, or a carnival. Party hats and union flags (not union jacks!) lined the route from Mansion House in the City through to Buckingham Palace - some even came dressed in their opening and closing event costumes:

What the Games meant to us Brits
Bright idea.. Can you spot the man with the lightbulb above his head? Photo: Rob Stares

My home for the afternoon was outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Taking on-board GB Mag’s advice on how to watch free Olympic events, I found a prime location with plenty of time to spare. As police officers took the opportunity to hi-five the crowds for one last time, one spectator ran out of the crowds with a toy Olympic torch and ran down the road, prompting a huge cheer from the delighted crowds.

The windows of the offices that lined the route for our 830 elite athletes slowly filled, as eager workers took in the unfolding spectacle. Even the builders in a nearby office had time to construct their own message to gold medallist heptathlete and Team GB poster-girl, Jessica Ennis:

What the Games meant to us Brits
Builders show some love for Jess Ennis. Photos: Rob Stares, Mathew Williams

With every single vantage point taken, including the top of phone boxes, the parade rolled into view. Headed up by two giant carnival lions and a marching band made up of steel drums and brass instruments, the atmosphere clicked from ‘good natured’ to ‘euphoric’.

What the Games meant to us Brits
Getting snap-happy on top of an old-fashioned London phone box. Photo: Mathew Williams

The Olympic feel-good factor raced through the crowd like Mo Farah and David Weir in the Olympic Stadium, with the long-distance duo heading up the procession, along with fellow athletes Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Richard Whitehead and Hannah Cockroft.

What the Games meant to us Brits
Mo Farah (left), and Greg Rutherford - Greg tries to orchestrate one massive cheer. Photo: Rob Stares

Other British heroes such as Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott, Dani King, Nicole Cooke, Natasha Baker, Deborah Criddle, Charlotte Dujardin, Tom Daley, Ben Ainslie and Rebecca Adlington were all present, along with double world-record holder Ellie Simmonds, who smashed the current swimming world records in both the S6 400m freestyle and SM6 200m individual medley.

What the Games meant to us Brits
Victoria Pendleton, Steven Burke (top), Nicole Cooke, Laura Trott and Dani King. Photos: Rob Stares, Mathew Williams

The electric atmosphere continued to surge across the city, as people of all ages tried to catch a fleeting glimpse of Mo Farah performing his iconic “Mobot” pose, even when crowds were up to 100m deep around the Strand. But what will the long-term legacy be for us Brits?

What the Games meant to us Brits
It would take Jonnie Peacock around 10.90 seconds to run back to the float! Photo: Rob Stares

After all of the pessimism that dogged the build-up regarding the Tube (it won’t cope - even if we’re super polite on it!), the security (a disaster, as highlighted by Dr. D) and the potential embarrassment of the opening ceremony (summed up by Teddy Baden), we passed all of them with flying colours – or a flying Queen, if you’d prefer.

The police were given a warm reception at all venues, in a direct contrast to the hostility they faced in last year’s riots. Armed police posed for photos, and Prime Minister David Cameron even got a cheer from the crowds – although Chancellor George Osbourne wasn’t so lucky. With this in mind, I hope that us Brits don’t just get out and join in more sports, but we also hold on to our recent peak in country-wide positivity.

What the Games meant to us Brits
Horseplay.. A police officer high-fives the crowds from the top of his horse. Photo: Rob Stares

Even when national sporting sides have triumphed on the world stage in recent memory, we never felt like the glory could last long; but our athletes have helped to remind us that hard work, perseverance and a bit of positive thought will get you a very long way. It wasn’t just our sporting heroes that provided us with inspiration – it was the Games Makers who came from all over the globe to help for free, as well as the fans of all nations who came to celebrate in their own style that put the spring back into our step.

For decades, Britain has been inspired by international cultures and celebrated their impact on the nation, and this summer was no exception. The origins of the carnival lions and marching band that lead the parade didn’t start in Britain, but they’ve now become as important to our heritage as afternoon tea.

What the Games meant to us Brits
Two lions to celebrate the Olympic and Paralympic GB sides. Photos: Mathew Williams, Rob Stares

During these Games, I’ve been inspired by the joy of the Brazilian and Jamaican supporters and athletes, the extrovert enthusiasm of the US team and – more importantly – how Rwandan paralympians set aside harrowing divides of the past to compete (and win) together as a team. If Brits across the nation can harness the same energy, then it’ll become an even greater place to live than it already is.

Whether you’re a returning international student or a fresher, here’s your chance to add to the future colour of Great Britain that stretches far beyond the red, white and blue of the union flag. As the summer of sport proved to the world, we’re ready to help you create history.”

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