Notwithstanding the odd Chinese and Korean badminton player, a Belarusian shot putter, and a cashed-up US basketball team which had no place being there, London 2012 was largely about fair play in the pursuit of precious medals.
For the past two and a half weeks, young sportsmen and sportswoman have adhered to the Baron Pierre de Coubertin principle and made the inhabitants of Britain feel happy and glorious again.
As of today, athletes from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Zambia and Zimbabwe via Kiribati and Krygyzstan who enthralled us with their running, jumping and paddling will be replaced by overpaid bores whose specialist sports are spitting, goading and feigning injury. Welcome to the new English soccer season.
Where once, the front and back pages were filled with tales of honest endeavour, there will be kiss-and-tell tattle of extra-time romps, nightclub fracas and obscene salaries. Throw in terrace hostility and the Olympic glow is a distant memory.
One can only hope that the words of national manager Roy Hodgson are heeded. “The Olympics have really shown us the way to go,” he said ahead of England’s match against Italy.
“So there is now an extra burden of responsibility on our players to make sure they are good role models and professionals in the way they speak to the nation as our athletes have done.” Phew, some hope Roy.
“It’s been very refreshing to see talented people showing a good face to the nation and the world at large,” he added.
“The way that Team GB have conducted themselves in a home Olympics must make the world of athletics very pleased and proud and so many of them have done such a great PR job.”
This in a week when England face a South African team eager to topple Andrew Strauss’s men from their No.1 spot. And a week which should have been equally dominated by Strauss’s 100th Test appearance – at Lord’s.
Pietersen wanted to play for England on his terms – a schedule where he could pick and choose between T20, 50-overs and Tests and trouser several million rupees in the Indian Premier League.
Naturally enough, the suits of the ECB were not amused.
Pietersen saw opportunity in a riotous 149 in the second Test at Headingley to launch a stinging attack on the game’s rulers and suggested that all was not well in the England dressing room. “It’s not easy being me in there, he said.” Retirement was threatened.
His handlers then thought it a smart idea to issue an incredulous Youtube apology which included a pledge to represent England in all forms of the game.
He made that without the ECB’s knowledge and was subsequently dropped for the third Test when it was revealed that he had sent unsavoury remarks about Strauss and others to the South African camp by sms.
After repeated prompts from the ECB, a further apology was duly delivered, this time by email …
“I did send what you might call provocative texts to my close friends in the SA team. The texts were meant as banter between close friends. I need to rein myself in sometimes.” Indeed.
Pietersen’s mea culpa was met with a cool response from England managing director Hugh Morris.
“Further discussions need to take place to establish whether it is possible to regain the trust and mutual respect required to ensure all parties are able to focus on playing cricket and to maintain the unity of purpose that has served us so well in recent years,” he wrote.
That doesn’t exactly sound like a ‘let’s shake hands and put this sorry saga behind us’ does it?