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The Greatest Shame of London 2012

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For me, the Olympics are over. As I sat on my train home having left the Olympic Park on Friday for the last time, panicking that I had yet to iron a shirt for the wedding I was supposed to be attending in the morning, a sense of irrevocable sadness enveloped me.

I am gutted it is all done with. I went into the Olympics expecting disaster and full of cynicism. But I was won over.

The only thing I am left feeling bitter about is the fact that I may never see an event on this scale in my own country again.

However, as I left the park, probably never to return, it wasn't this which left my heart so heavy. It was knowing that we are not going to get the chance to do it all again in six years, as we would have done, were the 2018 World Cup being hosted in England.

The following may be something you have already read, or indeed something you will read quite a lot over the coming weeks. If that is the case, good, because I couldn't be more certain of it and the more people saying it, the better.

Like it or not, football is the national sport. Yes, I am fully aware that many English people proudly claim to "have no interest in football" and often moan about the cheating, preening, ill-educated buffoons who parade around the pitch earning more in an hour than many will earn in a lifetime.

But can you honestly say that if the English national team were to walk out to a World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, you can think of a single person who wouldn't at least be keeping their eye near a television screen?

Remember that feeling when Mo Farah was running down the final straight to win his gold medal last weekend? Can you really say that you wouldn't have been going at least 50 times more crazy if you replaced Mo for Wayne Rooney, and the running track for the goal of Victor Valdes in the 90th minute?

Much has been said about the Olympic legacy and the ripple effect that should be felt as a result of hosting the Olympic Games. I cannot think of a greater way to capitalise on the current national euphoria or legacy to the games than launching a fresh World Cup Bid.

When the World Cup was awarded to Russia, after the initial anger, a few people piped up with relief, claiming that, as a nation, we were not ready to host an event on that scale, and that the Olympics would prove it. How laughable an idea is that now?

London, usually a miserable place full of rude, self-centred people, has undergone a transformation over the past two weeks. Friendly volunteers at train stations have smiled as they wave Olympic visitors through the busiest stations with little disruption to London's grumpy commuters. In fact, the 'grumpy Londoners' have been among the greatest ambassadors for the country, welcoming our guests and brimming with as much enthusiasm as those attending the games.

If England were to host the World Cup, the entire country would benefit from this kind of makeover as the action would be more evenly distributed throughout the country, rather than largely concentrated to one 500-acre site in East London.

This would also benefit local business in a way that the Olympics has not been able to for the area surrounding the Olympic Park. Last week I visited Leyton High Road, a high street visible from the park. Shop owners said that they had not seen any boost in trade, as the Olympic Park was fenced off, preventing tourists from exploring the local area. Football stadiums are not designed like this, and the areas surrounding the grounds would benefit from the additional visitors.

"But an English World Cup isn't the same as a British Olympics." Isn't it? The Olympics have largely taken place on one site surrounded by high level security. How British is that? Also, what is to stop us launching a joint bid with our Scottish or Welsh friends? Unlikely, sure, but it isn't totally out of the question.

And as for the English 'football hooligans' who would pick fights with all the foreign fans, presumably all these people were on holiday for the past fortnight? Or are they such democratic thugs that they simply only pick fights with fellow football fans?

Unless the Royal Family are involved, Britain doesn't 'do' national pride particularly well. Patriotism all too often gets hijacked by a vocal right-wing minority that no sensible person wants to be associated with. If the Olympics has helped the progressive majority reclaim British patriotism, imagine what an English World Cup could do, and not just for the English people, but for English football also.

If the FA are smart (leave it), as soon as the Paralympics are over with they will leap on this goodwill and use the astonishing efforts of this summer to get everyone fully behind a bid for a World Cup to be played on English turf. Preferably before I am buried six feet beneath it.

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