ANDREW STEPHENSON MP: The Olympics showed everything that was best about Britain

I don’t think I can ever remember a time in my life when I have felt as proud to be British as I have this year.

Firstly, we had Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and then we had the amazing spectacle that has been the Olympic Games, during which we proved that Britain can deliver both in terms of winning the medals and hosting the most extraordinary festival of sport.

The Games seem to have had almost the entire nation gripped. Everywhere you went it was on the television, every pub I went into and even Carlo’s restaurant in Colne when I went for an Italian last week.

London 2012 was infectious, even for those of us who couldn’t get our hands on any tickets.

For me there were a few defining moments, but outside of the sport I thought the opening and closing ceremonies were spectacular.

I felt the opening ceremony almost defined Pendle, with its idyllic rural settlements contrasting with its role at the heart of the industrial revolution.

The spirit of the Games was summed up perfectly for me at the moment the flame was lit by those six young athletes.

Of course, the best sporting moment of the Games was when Steven Burke from Colne won gold in the cycling Team Pursuit event, and the team broke their own world record while doing so.

What better way can there be to inspire a generation than to have someone from your own town winning gold?

On the back of Steven’s success, Colne got its own gold post box which was a pleasant surprise to me as I can see it from my bedroom window. I’ve also managed to get my hands on some of the Team Pursuit 1st class stamps, too, which I’ll proudly use over the next few weeks.

Of course, we’ve got more excitement to come when the Paralympics begin on the August 29th, and it will be great to welcome these games back to the soil on which they were conceived and first held.

I hold the Paralympics in very high regard and had the great privilege of attending the last Paralympics in Beijing, which coincided with me completing a charity trek on the Great Wall of China.

At those games I watched as a good friend of mine from university, Helene Raynsford, won a gold medal in the rowing. Given the challenges she has faced in her life and what she has achieved, that memory will always live with me.

She is one of the most inspirational people I know.

Of course, we may have inspired a generation through the Games, but we must ensure that now continues. London 2012 has lifted us up and we have shown how great we can be. We have showed attitude, character, confidence and a little humorous eccentricity.

We have shown everything that is best about Britain. We need to continue to do that now, to promote sport, our country and to make more young people feel part of society and take ownership for it.