Emma Bird reflects on the athletes' parade, the 2012 Games and the new-found British spirit.
By Emma Bird
Last Updated: 12/09/12 4:50pm
So that is it. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have drawn to a close. And an incredible, golden one at that.
The heroes of Team GB and ParalympicsGB danced, cheered and cried their way through the streets of London on Monday to a fitting welcome from the streams of British public who simply had one thing to say.
'Thank you.' It was said by mothers and fathers, children and grandparents, athletes and officials. It was said with a sincerity that will maybe never mean more than it does now.
It was also said by games-makers to athletes but, significantly, by athletes to games-makers.
Their efforts, dedication and sheer friendliness are already the resounding memory of these Games and the flame has barely left for Rio.
When it was first announced that the 2012 volunteers would be named 'games-makers', many did not understand and appreciate such a choice.
Now they do. Every single one of them made the London 2012 Games happen. Just as Great Britain as a whole made the Games happen.
Back to life
It is vital to remember however, that is it not by having the largest sporting spectacle in our capital this summer that Britain has become 'great.'
Britain has been great for a long, long time. The passion, humour and kind-hearts of the nation are often overlooked and overshadowed by negative, upsetting news stories. The London Games brought the UK back to life in a way not even Lord Seb Coe could have imagined.
The issue of legacy has been spoken of since London won the bid in Singapore back in 2005. For the past two months, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have most definitely 'inspired a generation'.
David Cameron spoke after the parade about making the spirit "live on for generations" to come. This spirit he speaks of is unique.
'God save the Queen' has never been heard more than this summer and long should this continue. People have started speaking to one another on the tubes, saying thank you when someone does a good deed and maybe most importantly, appreciating that what Britain is about is really something very special.
From the seedlings of the Olympic ideal, through to winning the bid, the planning and organisation and the beginning of the torch relay back in May, just what the country was capable of remained a distant dream.
As the tears now flow, both happy and sad waterfalls, the Games that have created such raw emotion and patriotism this summer leave our shores and head to Rio de Janiero.
Brazil is a lucky country. The success of both Team GB and ParalympicsGB has shown just how gifted the athletes across the UK are.
If funding is secured and the same attention focused on these sportsmen and women in the next four years, anything is possible and the sky really is the limit.
The Paralympic Games set out to challenge people's perception of disability and I believe it is safe to say this has been achieved. Ellie Simmonds, the golden girl of the pool, received a bigger cheer than many of the Olympians during the parade- this would never have been the case a decade ago.
What has been uncovered during these past weeks is that the Games are about sport. Not solely inspiration or overcoming adversity.
Yes they include these elements, yet it is the sport which should come above all else. And it has. Brilliant, awe-inspiring sport which has captured the hearts of not just a nation, but the world.
Across London and the entire British Isles, there is now a sense of sadness and the unknown. The unknown of what people will watch on television, who they will cheer on and just how long this superb spirit will live on for.
A certain Dr Seuss once said something that I now believe we should embrace as these magical moments draw to an end.
"Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened."
If everybody now takes action, even if it is a simple 'thank you' in their daily lives, Britain can continue to prove just why the country is so great.
We should all feel very lucky, honoured and proud to have been part of 'the greatest show on earth.'
Thank you London.