In a very British way, the nation took some time to embrace the full impact of our hosting the Olympics. How do you follow Beijing? Will that rain ever stop? And how can we run a dozen Olympic venues if we can't even get Heathrow right? With the Army suddenly drafted in to fill security gaps, expectations were not high.
Yet, as the torch meandered its way around the country, it blazed a trail of enthusiasm for the global extravaganza about to take place on our doorstep. The nation truly fell in love with these games thanks to the spectacular opening ceremony which gave us that same tingly feeling experienced during the Royal Pageant on the Thames. It has united the nation and made us extremely proud to be British.
We have not just hosted the biggest, most complex and successful games ever, we have astonished the world and ourselves with what we are capable of. No doubt the 'generals' in LOCOG will rightly be commended in the New Year’s Honours list. But I believe that the scale and commitment of all the foot soldiers (the volunteers, the blue light services and the military) who worked cheerfully and tirelessly behind the scenes deserve recognition too. Collectively, the games could not have happened without them. Only through their dedication, dependability, and proficiency was it accomplished in such sensational and memorable style. They were the smile on the face of the country delivering the greatest show on earth.
No wonder there is a growing feeling that these unsung heroes should be rewarded. I propose an Olympics Community Service medal, to be created and awarded to all those who made a significant contribution in the build up to, and during, the Olympics and Paralympics.
Some may argue that Armed Forces medals should solely be associated with military campaigns, in recognition of duty when placed in harm's way (the so called 'risk and rigour' test). Whilst this is usually the case, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal was recently awarded to all service personnel simply to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's reign. And the FCO awarded the Iraq Reconstruction Service Medal to UK Armed Forces, civil servants and contractors who helped with stabilisation efforts following the overthrow of Saddam Hussain. Comparisons with campaign medals could therefore be avoided if this medal was issued, not by the MOD, but by another Government department.
Of course, the awarding of any medal should be for a worthy and remarkable cause. The conduct of these Games has helped redefine who we are and our place in the world. We will never again host anything of this magnitude in our life time. So, in order to salute all the Brits, in and out of uniform, who made the 2012 Olympics such a spectacular success we should help them stand tall alongside our brilliant Olympians — for they also served.