At The Hare in Bethnal Green - a cosy old-style pub in a now gentrified-ish part of East London where the notorious Kray twins once collected the rent - a regular leans across the drip tray, one eye on the TV screen, the other on a slowly filling pint glass. Women's javelin has given way to hockey, another of those funny old sports that will be forgotten in a week or two when the Hammers rejoin the English Premier League.

You ask him if he has been to the Olympics. ''Could only get tickets for the fencing,'' he says. ''Blimey though, they didn't 'arf go at it. Great fun. I've got some tickets for the Paralympics too. You know. Keep the party going an' all that.''

Inevitably, much of the focus at these Olympics fell on the iconic locations around which some events were held. What you might call the Posh Olympics.

The beach volleyball on Horse Guards Parade, so close to 10 Downing Street the Prime Minister, David Cameron, was regularly visited by bikini-clad women asking if they could have their ball back. The triathlon through leafy Hyde Park. A marathon course that was a virtual Monopoly board.

The sailing near Chesil Beach, Dorset, scene of Ian McEwan's novel On Chesil Beach.

Melbourne, particularly, attempts to justify its lavish expenditure on sport with optimistic ''economic benefit'' statements. It was images of these events that had British politicians extolling the benefits that would flow from an Olympics that cost - from the most recent rubbery figures - £10 billion ($15 billion). People would see a revitalised, vibrant city and flock to it. As if London was some exotic, yet unexplored tourist destination just waiting to be discovered.

Yet, even before the Olympics, the figures were sobering. Hotel occupancy rates in London in the past fortnight were anticipated to be at around 80 per cent - the same as this time last year. Meanwhile, the cabbies - that great litmus test of economic activity - complained their business was down. Perhaps some long-term benefits will flow, beyond the spurious ''well-being index''. However, even from the most jubilant British fan, the consensus is the Olympics will merely add to the pile of debt under which the nation groans.

So, rather than the Hooray Henrys at the rowing or the equestrian, it is the judgment of the more financially vulnerable population of the East End about these Olympics that seemed most important. Those who will be either blessed, or in the case of those West Ham fans, dead against the likely move to the Olympic Stadium, cursed by the London 2012 legacy. Both in the costly facilities built in their part of town, and the potential economic hangover.

''I think we're in for a tough time afterwards,'' agreed the regulars at The Hare. ''Back to 'Broken Britain'.''

If this seems a downbeat note upon which to end what was a hugely successful, continuously enjoyable Olympics, it is not. Rather, it is to put into context the tough times in which these Games were staged.

Realities which makes the enthusiasm, good humour and even very unBritish passion with which they were embraced, all the more impressive.

Olympics are symbolised by great athletic moments. Here, they included Usain Bolt's historic sprint double, Michael Phelps covering himself in more bling than a rap star's posse and Sir Chris Hoy proving, yet again, he could replace the entire Scottish postal service. Most thrillingly, there was that rhapsodic night in the main stadium when heptathlete Jessica Ennis, 10,000m runner Mo Farah and long-jumper Greg Rutherford performed a magnificent home team trifecta.

Yet, mostly, it is the manner in which such moments are celebrated that is the secret to the Olympics success. After all, this is - as we will find when they disappear from the media in a few days - mostly a collection of minor sports upon which we lavish our attention for 16 days every four years. They are only transformed because we suspend our disbelief and celebrate the hammer-throw like we might the winning try in a State of Origin decider.

Home team success? Jingoistic fervour? The condemned man eating a hearty meal? However you explain the enthusiasm of the British people at these Olympics, it was that - as much as any of the performers - that made them first class.

Yes, the stadiums were good - at least by the modern cookie-cutter standards of the now fenced-in Olympics. The trains ran on time, despite dire forecasts. The athletes thrilled - even the Australian athletes, despite the lofty expectations created by politically motivated ''medal benchmarks'' and the idiotic pissing contests between Australian and British officials.

But what I will remember about these Olympics, beyond even the blur of Bolt or the manic exuberance of Sally Pearson, is the manner in which a nation with a bit more on its plate right now than judo and badminton rose to the occasion. Often quite literally, thanks to their inspiring athletes.

Well done you magnificent Pommy bastards.