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FOR the past fortnight, the UK has been taking a powerful mind-altering drug called the Olympics. Now, as the drug is suddenly withdrawn, the question is whether the upbeat national mood can last — or whether the patient will slip back into despondency.
The natural temptation is to dismiss any euphoria produced by the Olympics as inherently transient. But that is too easy. There have been times when the staging of a successful Olympics has symbolised and strengthened a change in national fortunes.
In 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics — with Carl Lewis storming down the track with the crowds chanting “U-S-A!” — captured the return of US optimism in the Reagan era. A spectacular Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 showcased the flowering of post-Franco Spain. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 sent a powerful message about the power and confidence of a resurgent China.
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