PARALYMPICS LONDON 2012: Our greatest of days witnessed through disbelieving eyes
AND that was that, a summer like no other now consigned to the pages of history. A cherished memory of endless days and golden glory witnessed through often disbelieving eyes.
HOME HEROES: David Weir and Sarah Storey carry the British flag at the conclusion of the London 2012 Paralympic Games
Did it really happen? Yes it did and we were there, right in the middle of the melee - cheering from stands and sofas for athletes who just a few weeks ago many didn’t even know but whose names are now indelibly stained on the national sporting consciousness.
London’s Olympic Park, which once bustled with excitement and anticipation, falls silent, its greatest days forever behind it.
But before reality bites, one last party, one last chance to cheer and one last chance to shed a tear.
Snaking through London on Monday will be a convoy of Olympians and Paralympians who proves more than any dancing dog, lithe limbo dancer or giggly girl band that Britain really has got talent.
They will stop the traffic just as they have stopped the world and all they ask, all they deserve, is one last rousing ovation before they take their leave of the stage.
The legacy of these weeks will take time to assess and we’ll need to wait some years to find out whether a generation was really inspired.
For the Paralympics this is uncharted territory as people finally forgot disability and saw only ability.
There is nothing special about David Weir or Sarah Storey or Ellie Simmonds other than their sporting talent.
In recent days Paralympic sport has become mainstream, the athletes of these Games have become A listers, knocking football off the back pages and topping the bulletins.
But realism triumphs over optimism and how long will this last?
Over the last week over 1.5 million people have crammed into the Olympic Stadium, packing it to its rafters every morning and evening, to witness Paralympic athletics push the boundaries ever further. And it was quite a thing.
At last year’s World Championships in Christchurch, the daily attendance was barely 2,000 and that comprised mainly of competitors and their families. They couldn’t even be bothered to close the roads for the marathon and the action was broadcast only on he internet.
No-one in the Olympic or Paralympic movement wants to merge their Games or change their running order.
The Olympics remains the best possible warm-up act, it’s not patronising or condescending for the Paralympics to follow, as recent days have proved it does not make them second best, far from it.
But perhaps it’s time to consider whether Paralympic athletes can compete alongside non-disabled athletes in other major championships, for example the World Athletics Championships.
Until Paralympic sport is fully embraced, until it gets the airtime, the sponsorship and the exposure it will struggle to gain traction in a cluttered sporting landscape of big-money transfers and not that Super Sundays.
And that must be the challenge.
But if we meet that confrontation in the same way the athletes of these Games conquered the obstacles in their path, this could really be the start of something special.
And, don't forget, it all started here.
© Sportsbeat 2012