Joined: 14 Jul 2005
Club: BSAC 109
Sport : SubAqua Diving
One last hurrah and then, like the summer, it was all over too soon
|Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:13 am
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One last hurrah echoed through the capital and the nation, then, like that great British summer of sport, it was all over too soon.
And so, for one last time, the wall of noise that has come to define these Games swept through London.
It started at Mansion House, the 30-deep crowd erupting as soon as they glimpsed the Mobot on the first of 21 floats packed with Olympians and Paralympians. It carried on past St Paul’s, where spectators swooned at Jessica Ennis and David Weir, and it flowed down Fleet Street, cheers ringing out every time Ellie Simmonds smiled.
Onwards the roar went, past the Royal Courts of Justice and along a Strand swollen with families and gamesmakers and office workers who had popped out for sandwiches and instead encountered Sarah Storey. Even tourists had joined in the celebration.
Near Trafalgar Square, where the wall of noise originated just over seven years ago on that historic day that it was announced that the 2012 Games were ours, all ours, it came full circle. The clock that counted down the agonisingly long months and weeks until the start of the London Olympics now simply – sadly – told us the time and the date, the whole thing over too soon.
The great British public swarmed around the plinths and Nelson’s Column and watched as almost 800 members of our greatest team passed through Admiralty Arch and on to The Mall, where 14,000 volunteers and schoolchildren, specially invited by the Mayor’s office, whooped with delight as the likes of Greg Rutherford and Tom Daley held up handwritten signs that proclaimed: “No, thank YOU!”
The sound wasn’t as fast as it was in the Velodrome, or as urgent as it was in the Olympic Stadium – it took over an hour and a half for the 21-float procession to travel the three miles of the Victory Parade, which is slow, even by London rush hour standards – but it was far more poignant.
Because, as the athletes disembarked from their floats and on to the Queen Victoria Memorial, we heard that now familiar roar for the final time. London may have seen celebrations before – in the last 18 months alone we have been treated to the royal wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – but it has never experienced one quite like this.
David Cameron described it as “a great British summer that will be remembered for hundreds of years to come”, and even if the Prime Minister is relegated to the footnotes of the history books, at least these words might stand a chance of being repeated by generation after generation, when they speak of the great London Olympics of 2012.
Cameron and Boris Johnson waved as enthusiastically at the floats as everyone else. “You not only inspired a generation,” Boris would later tell the athletes, “but you probably helped create one as well.”
On the Queen Victoria Memorial, where the athletes stood in bitter autumnal wind, the mayor acknowledged that they had been sporting in more ways than one. “You have been on floats all afternoon without being able to touch a drop of beer,” he said, to laughs. “You brought this country together. You routed the doubters and you scattered the gloomsters
for the first time in living memory, you caused Tube passengers to break into spontaneous conversation about subjects other than their trod-on toes.”
And though you might think that the athletes would be used to adoring crowds by now, they still seemed overwhelmed by all the attention from the million-strong assembly.
Victoria Pendleton, retiring from cycling and soon to be seen on Strictly Come Dancing, said that the day had been “emotional”. “It makes me feel so proud to be British. We did such a good job of hosting the Games.”
Sir Chris Hoy said he had taken “a whole battery’s worth of pictures on my iPhone … after the Beijing Olympics we had a pretty good reception, a pretty exceptional reception, but this is on a different scale. There are people hanging off the tops of roofs, out of windows and climbing lamp posts. It’s just a sea of red, white and blue. It’s incredible.”
A flypast featured the Red Arrows who were led by Firefly, the gold BA airliner that had transported the Olympic flame to Britain all those months ago.
Yesterday the words 'THANK YOU’ had been painted on its undercarriage, for all of London to see. And that was important to the athletes, who didn’t want this parade to simply be a celebration of their achievements, however wonderful they were. They wanted it to be a way of expressing gratitude to the public, from the thousands of gamesmakers lining the Mall to the office workers back at Mansion House.
“We want to thank every single person of the UK,” said Sarah Storey, “Without your support, we wouldn’t have been able to bring back that bling.” Sir Chris Hoy said that the parade “isn’t about us – it’s about the public.” But it was Katherine Grainger, veteran of four Olympic games, who summed up the mood of our greatest team. “On days like today,” she smiled, “you realise you’re not simply celebrating the British team. You realise you are celebrating the whole nation.”
On the Queen Victoria Memorial, performances were given by the Pet Shop Boys and the scottish singer Amy Macdonald. It was rumoured that Cheryl Cole was the standby should any of the artists pull out.
But standing there, you wondered why any of them were needed in the first place. Given the magic of the opening and closing ceremonies, and the wonder of the last six weeks – the athletes, Paralympians, volunteers and public locked in an emotional embrace that no one wanted to end – it was unlikely anybody had turned up to the Victory parade to hear pop music.
And yet the last words of the Olympics and Paralympics went to an indie band called the Noisettes, who performed on the memorial as streamers flew through the sky. And then the crowds drifted away, the wall of noise nothing but ringing in their ears.
Scuba Divers support the Games in 2012, do you? Anonymous