Time to let go? PM fears end of Olympic feel-good factor

David Cameron says Britain should strive to "cling" to the Olympic spirit as the country returns to normal.

London 2012 has helped distract the country from the double-dip recession currently blighting the UK's economy. The Games have surprised many Britons by being unexpectedly successful, with concerns about security during the buildup dwarfed by the huge public enthusiasm for the sport.

After last night's Paralympics closing ceremony the country is beginning to return to normal, although a parade by Team GB and Paralympics GB is expected to prolong the good mood for one more day.

Speaking from Downing Street and surrounded by a few of the volunteers whose cheerful spirit has helped defined the Games, Cameron declared that London 2012 had given Britain a "tremendous lift" – and would become as well-remembered as 1966.

"For countries to succeed in this competitive and difficult world, you need to have confidence you can do big things and get them right – that you can take on the best, beat the best, be the best. We've done that as a country," he said.

The prime minister conceded that "some of that spirit will fade as everyone knuckles down to get back to work" but urged Brits to "cling to" the Olympic spirit "for all of the months and years ahead".

London mayor Boris Johnson was in equally triumphant mood in his weekly column for the Telegraph newspaper.

"The Olympics showed that we can carry out the most difficult logistical operation demanded of any country in peacetime, and do it with efficiency and style," he wrote.

"The Paralympics have shown that Britain remains a beacon of enlightenment."

Johnson said that the sight of ordinary Londoners conducting conversations with strangers on the Tube – "as though the city has been crop-dusted with serotonin" – was just a part of the political success of the Games.

"The Olympics and Paralympics have somehow engendered the very thing all politics is meant to aim for – general happiness and a sense of well-being," he added.

"We have been united in our admiration for superhuman performances by athletes – British athletes, who have won against the best in the world, and who have been powered by no stimulant more sinister than beetroot juice.

"The Games have changed not only much of London; they have changed the world's attitude to Britain, and our own view of this country and what it can do."