The British Olympic team - `Team GB,' as it's been called over and over and over again these past couple of weeks - flew home on Monday. You might have heard we had a good Olympics - the best gold medal tally in a century, and the last time we did as well we got medals in sports where there weren't any teams from other countries. So, not so shabby.
The team flew back from Beijing on a 747 temporarily renamed `Pride,' its nose painted gold to signify all those golds we won. Which was fine by me, as a former county athlete (lapsed)I'm all for celebrating British excellence.
What did start to prickle the hairs at the back of my neck was reports that the medal winners were at the front of the plane and everyone else was towards the back.
The reason for this became apparent when the plane landed and the non-medal-winners debarked first from the rear exit. Then, after a pause, the medallists came down the steps, led by the multiple-golds and with the bronzes bringing up the rear, to great cheers and a photocall and all that media stuff.
Now, I'll be at the forefront of any group of people wanting to congratulate the winners. They put in extraordinary - often record-breaking - performances, and they fully deserve any and all the praise they get. And I absolutely understand the requirements of the media for a photocall and I can see why the whole thing was stage-managed the way it was.
But what left a slightly bad taste in my mouth was seeing the other athletes coming down the back stairs first, to relatively little acclaim. Many of them reached their finals after going through however many qualifying rounds, and quite a lot of them only failed to get a medal by one or two places - there were a lot of narrow fourth and fifth places - in fields that included the best athletes on earth.
So I wasn't wild about seeing the team segregated into the Olympic Heroes and...the rest. I got tired of hearing the phrase `Team GB' over the Olympic fortnight, and I thought the return to Britain made the phrase seem hypocritical. The sportsmen and women were a team while they were in Beijing, but somewhat less than a team when they got back.
In happier news, trackback is working again.