As Mo Farah sprinted for the line, running quicker after nine thousand, nine hundred metres than most of us will ever run in our lives, the crowd behind him rose to their feet and roared in complete joy, a sea of delirious faces and Union flags.
It was perhaps the pinnacle of the most magical fortnight modern Britain may ever see, a glorious golden haze from beginning to end. The Opening Ceremony set the tone with a dream-like portrayal of a nation totally secure with itself, and then for two weeks we lived the dream: medal after medal after medal; high fives between spectators and the police; parks full of people playing sport and enjoying each other's company; and, in an extraordinary breach of the capital's ultimate taboo, sober strangers talking to each other on the London Tube.
For two weeks, we have seen the very best of ourselves. We have managed to both passionately celebrate our own success and at the same time welcome the rest of the world - we have been great hosts and thrown a fantastic party. Our national conversation has been positive and encouraging even in the more cynical ends of our media. Through the combined efforts of seventy thousand volunteers and public institutions such LOCOG, the BBC and the armed forces, we have established ourselves as a place where, as Lord Coe put it, we "get things right". In the achievement of our athletes, we have seen that hard work and endeavour, rather than cutting corners or playing the system, can be the ultimate determinants of success - and that when success comes that way to decent, genuine people who we can really connect with, the country cherishes it.
Yet the success of our Olympians through hard work and endeavour highlights how far we have to go to make the last two weeks a reality in British life: many of our professions remain closed off to those outside certain social and academic networks; for those on the outside, opportunities feel very limited and success becomes not something to be admired but a source of resentment. We also remain deeply cynical about many of our national institutions, politics most of all. The comfortable multicultural nation we saw in the Opening Ceremony is still at odds with the division in some of our villages, towns and cities.
So we have a long way to go, but maybe we now know where we should be heading. Think again about Britain during the Olympics: a confident country, comfortable with itself, welcoming to others and able to enjoy itself; a society with strong role models and a deep commitment to volunteering; a national debate which is not always negative and cynical; a culture of getting things right and institutions we can rely on to do so; a country where hard work and genuine talent are rewarded with success. That might not be the reality of modern Britain, but is that not the exactly kind of society we want to build?
Somehow, from hosting what is at its heart a sporting event, a country which was drifting has almost by accident found a vision for the kind of society it might want to build, articulated in a better way than any politician ever could. We have seen what a better society would look like - and what is more we have felt it too. In our lifetimes we may never have quite such glorious days again, but let us remember the way we have felt and work hard to feel that way about our country again. Let that be our Olympic legacy.
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