THE Olympic flame is extinguished, the final race has been run. But the memories will remain vivid forever. In the years and decades to come, we will revisit them with pride and happiness. Never before has British sport, in fact the whole of British society, known a fortnight like this.

Now that everything has passed off so successfully, it is worth revisiting the seven years that sandwiched the announcement of London as host city and the triumphant opening ceremony of the Games.

In the main, it was seven years of nervousness and negativity. Could our country, in the grip of economic recession, afford to stage the Olympics? Could we manage the logistics of building the venues and ensuring the safe running of the Games? Would London's creaking transport system cope? Would our athletes embarrass us in front of the rest of the world?

Quite simply, we should not have worried. On every imaginable level, the London Olympics were a greater success than we could ever have imagined.

The venues were uniformly excellent, from the architecturally-impressive Olympic Park to the inspired juxtaposition of the beach volleyball court slap bang in the middle of Horse Guards Parade.

The transport network survived, with even the much-maligned Olympic road lanes causing minimal disruption.

An army of volunteers supplemented the actual Army to ensure that security was not an issue and old-fashioned notions of British reserve were left at the door. Happy, smiling faces were present everywhere – a perfect antidote to the hatred and aggression that briefly set London ablaze last summer.

And then there's our athletes, heroes and heroines every one, from the record number of gold medallists to the likes of race walker Dominic King, who came 51st out of 51 in the men's 50km walk on Saturday morning, but still spent the closing stages of the race high-fiving a capacity crowd who cheered his every last step on the Mall.

Often for very good reason, we have become increasingly cynical about our sportsmen and women, particularly our Premier League footballers, whose grip on reality appears to have disappeared forever.

Our Olympians have restored our faith in a different type of sporting champion, one that achieves great feats through hard work and dedication, yet remains humble and grounded at the same time. Suddenly, our children have a generation of genuine role models to admire.

That so many of those role models are female is especially welcome. The likes of Jessica Ennis, Laura Trott, Kat Copeland and Nicola Adams have exploded the myth that Britain is disinterested in women's sport, and proved to young girls that sporting success is attainable no matter how unlikely it may initially appear. A post-Games hope is that mainstream media outlets, including this one, take that message on board.

What else will be the legacy of the Games, an issue that is of great importance given the finance that has been pumped into them?

Elements of the physical legacy remain unclear – it is still not certain, for example, what will happen to the Olympic Stadium once the Paralympics are over – but there can be no doubt that the Olympics have shone a powerful light on a previously unheralded area of London and that developments such as the Westfield shopping complex, which sprang up on the edge of the Olympic Park, have already transformed the image and amenities of Stratford and its surrounding areas.

When it comes to the rest of the country, it will take years to determine whether the Olympics have helped inspire a generation of youngsters to take up sport. At the very least though, they have ignited a debate about the provision of school sport and the funding of grassroots organisations, and that can only be a good thing.

Hopefully, the biggest national legacy will be a continuation of the feel-good factor that has swept across the nation in the fortnight of the Games. Goodness knows, we need cheering up right now, and for all Britain's problems, it is pleasing to know that we can take on the challenge of staging the Olympics and pull it off so successfully.

Every now and then, it is nice to be able to take satisfaction in something. The Olympics have provided us with a multitude of reasons to feel proud. The only disappointment is that they are over so quickly after they begun.