GETTING IN THAT OLYMPIC SPIRIT 

And so it's started. That long-awaited festival of sport, international competition and all-round happy feelings. Yes, the Olympics of London 2012 are upon us. 

Seven years ago, when the citizens of the UK celebrated the announcement of the Games coming to London, the world's most important sporting event seemed very distant indeed. And before we had time to properly get our collective British heads around the proposition something more urgent, and infinitely more horrible, happened. The terrorist attacks on the London transportation system by 'homegrown' suicide bombers were, understandably, pretty much the only thing that occupied our minds for the next few months. Not long after we had global economic meltdown, the MPs' expenses scandal and the discovery that employees of certain national newspapers were using phone-hacking to get stories erupted. It's been quite a ride. By the time we had chance to raise our heads above the parapet again, it seemed the Games were almost upon us. 

And, do you know what? I think the Olympics might just prove the perfect antidote. It might not seem like it sometimes, but we Brits are typically self-deprecating as a nation. We love to talk ourselves down. I'm not entirely sure why we do it. Some commentators suggest that it's some sort of fake modesty which enables us to do a good bit of showing off. But I wonder whether it isn't just a sort of national touching of wood. As if, by saying that things are sure to go horribly wrong, they probably won't? Either way, some people, mainly London cabbies it seems, predicted utter disaster. Roads would jam, the tube would break down, people would be grumpy and not embrace the Games. Others warned that those outside London would not join in with the  spirit of celebration. That those unable to get tickets would not get any benefit. That the Opening Ceremony would be embarrassing by comparison with the Beijing opener. And that the security would first be a shambles then, after it was bolstered by bringing in the Armed Forces, akin to  Soviet-era Eastern Europe.

But, so far, and yes touching a great big lump of wood because there's along way to go,  things seem to be going rather well. Danny Boyle's extraordinary Opening Ceremony was, in fact, an absolute triumph. It spoke of our country in a way that was recognisable both to Brits and those viewing aboard. Weaving together what can be two very disparate  And it represented all of us. And, the odd malcontent rebel politician aside, it seemed to impress everyone too. All in all I think Lord Coe and his team have done a brilliant job. They managed to unite the country by bringing the torch relay out within relatively easy reach of everyone. By making use of the latest technology they also allowed everyone with access to the internet to follow its journey through the streets of our country. Around cities big and small, through tiny villages and past famous landmarks, the torch relay drew everyone closer to London with each passing day.

As I write, Team GB is starting to climb that medal table and there's plenty of time left and no need to panic.  And the Gold Medals have started to come! And, apart from a few cynics, no-one has started to panic. Besides, they're too busy enjoying themselves. They're learning about sports they've never watched before. They're supporting Team GB members they'd never heard of before. And discussing sport with neighbours and work colleagues they've never spoken to before. 

It seems old Pierre de Courbetin, the founder of the modern Olympics was right:  it is about more than the winning. But now, perhaps because we are the host nation, we're only just realising that participation is not just for the athletes who've trained relentlessly for years and years, but for the public too. For the people lucky enough to have tickets to watch events in person but also for the people watching at home. People who are, every day, discovering new sports.  And discovering new admiration for the hard work, early starts and sacrifices that so many of our sportsmen and women have made. It's certainly an eye-opener. And I'm happy to embrace that. 

And, you know, I'm beginning to think it wouldn't be be such a bad thing if we started to accept that we're actually seeming rather good at this Olympics lark. Quite rightly there's been a lot of talk about 'legacy'. A hope that Britons, in particular our younger generations, might embrace sport and physical activity. And that's vitally important. But I'm wondering whether London 2012's greatest legacy might just be that we hold our heads up a little bit higher. And smile. Now, wouldn't that be something?