Tonight's Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics will undoubtedly bring wry smiles and pangs of melancholy to those attending. Though there is another part of the capital which will do just as much. In fact it's already at it.
Head to the river, Embankment-side, and you will see Brazil have taken over Somerset House to be their nation's 'house' for the Olympics. All the countries participating in London 2012 are doing the same. But there is an added twist, as our Latin cousins have installed their own Omega-branded countdown clock to Rio 2016, the home of the next Summer Olympics.
Passing it the other morning induced the exact feelings I opened with. You can't begrudge them of course. The national houses are there to promote the best of their countries and the next four years are a total sporting boon for Brazil. But the clock underscores the fragility of the moment we in Britain have in our hands right now. Yes, it's been seven years and to many a commentator it has felt like forever. But in just over two weeks, we're done. The journey ends.
Negative voices have been given a disproportionate place at the 2012 table. And it threatens to cripple the mindset of a country that would do well to remember who the next Olympic flag-bearers are. Brazil, along with large parts of Latin America are enjoying better financial times. Moreover, they are taking the prestige and momentum of staging an Olympics (and a football World Cup) in their stride. With a smile, and with passion.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote for HuffPo a piece about London needing to wake up and embrace the immense opportunity the Olympics can bring. In the seven months since, we've seen the Torch Relay become a huge success, nationally, dismissing the idea that this great sporting and cultural pageant was just a thing for Londoners. Tickets have continued to be the most sought after in history. And projects continued to be delivered on time. There have been bumps, for sure, but an event of this size would expect that.
It says a lot that the negative voices have had too much airtime when US Presidential wannabe Mitt Romney berates British preparations. And while it was a huge personal gaffe for him, it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg that is the international perception of Britons and their attitude not just to staging the Olympics, but to facing up to challenges full-stop.
If one can ignore the hyperbole around security, we're not going to war: the Olympic Games are just an oversized sports day. And you remember what fun sports days were at school? Being outside with friends and family enjoying spirited competition. The motto of London 2012 is 'Inspire a Generation' - how can we as citizens do that when we seem to be down on everything? If our best is to make our children paranoid pessimists; no-can-doers, then we should just rip the Great out of Britain right now.
Tonight, and the next two weeks will bring epic sport in outstanding arenas in our own backyard. A yard that is filling up daily with tourists and followers desperate to come to our country. Because our past has afforded us the privilege of admiration. A successful Olympic Games will add to the tapestry of a 305 year old nation. We can be better. We can be the best. It's in our DNA, if we look hard enough beyond those grey clouds of negativity.
I'll end by referencing our Brazilian cousins. It's certain that bossa nova classic 'The Girl from Ipanema' will feature in the Rio ceremonies in four years time. The story of that song notes the tale of a young Carioca, those who admire her, and her sense of mortality and presence through the passing of time and opportunity. Whilst dainty and melodic, it is ultimately a song of sadness that reminds the listener that life is short, and uncertain.
The Olympics will soon leave these shores and not return in our lifetimes. It's time to drop the baton of loathing and race to a glorious finish. Before it's too late.