Wrapping one's arms around prosperity is not quite in the British DNA, but my how they have been trying the last few days.
The opening ceremony had been fabulous, just like the weather, and what better way to continue warming to this newfound optimism than for the first day of competition to begin with Great Britain's newest pride and joy, its cycling team, escorting Mark Cavendish off through the countryside and back on the way to the top of the medal podium?
But late Saturday afternoon, the clouds that rolled in were not the only thing darkening the mood. A lead pack of riders pulled so far in front of the British team that they never gave Cavendish, the cycling world's most feared sprinter, a chance as his charge past Buckingham Palace and down Pall Mall Road to the finish line was too late.
When Cavendish crossed the finish line, in 29th place, it was to golf applause rather than the roaring cheers that had chased him and the other Brits around most of the 249.5-kilometer course.
The disappointment made it easy for Cavendish - and some of the other five riders on his team - to tap into that essential vein of British character.
"Other teams were content that if they didn't win, we wouldn't win," Cavendish said, declaring a conspiracy among others who refused to burst out of the peloton and chase down a breakaway pack. "There are 70 guys in our group (who missed out, too). Nobody wants to help us. I'd like to say that's how it goes, but it's disappointing."
Added teammate David Millar: "The other teams seemed to be working to smash our race up."
That Cavendish also singled out the Australians for riding "negatively" will draw more than a few chuckles from Down Under, where Brits - whether they are complaining about the weather, the food or Mitt Romney - are wryly referred to as whinging poms, shorthand for prisoner of mother England.
The British didn't find any sympathy from other parts of the Commonwealth either.
"What do you expect?" Gordon Fraser, the Canadian director of cycling, said with a shrug. "They won the world championship and didn't do anything to be modest about it."
In truth, there were plenty of reasons the British were targeted Saturday. The meteoric rise of British cycling has made Wiggins and Cavendish hugely popular. The brash Cavendish, whose girlfriend is a former tabloid Page 3 model, was the BBC's sports personality of the year in 2011. And Wiggins, with his long sideburns and mod fashions, colorfully remarked last week that he was more excited to receive congratulations from the Smiths' lead guitarist and a former Liverpool soccer star than a letter from the queen.
"I kept saying (to his wife), 'F--- the queen,'" Wiggins said. "Johnny Marr has sent me a message on Twitter and I had a message from God as well, Robbie Fowler."
The two have proved to be great front men, along with short-track star Chris Hoy, for a sport that has turned Britain into "a cycling nation," according to The Guardian. The country made a considerable investment in cycling - the federation budget is estimated at close to $8 million annually - and its secretive methods paid off with 14 medals in Beijing, including three golds by Hoy.
The enthusiasm they generated played out along the route, which traveled narrow streets from the center of London out through the countryside to Surrey, with its thatched roof cottages, where the riders made nine loops up and around Box Hill before returning.
A dog raced into the path of the riders early on, nearly causing a pile-up and fans - not all aficionados - ventured into the road to take photos or cheer on the riders.
"It was insane," said American Chris Horner, who crashed once and missed by inches of another after a car door opened in front of him. "It was undeniably the most dangerous course I've ever been on. But it was a fabulous experience."
Fellow American Taylor Phinney, who was just beaten for the bronze by Norway's Alexander Kirstoff, said: "The crowds were ridiculous. It was a deafening roar. It kind of hit me - this is the Olympics."
The enthusiasm of British fans has not been dimmed by the specter of doping in a sport where it has not just been epidemic, but also ingrained. The British have seemed to escape suspicion from the home fans - even though one rider, Millar, was once banned for doping.
"I think they're riding clean," said Simon Speller, who echoed the viewpoints of 10 other British fans I spoke with during the race. "It's not like the Chinese swimmers. I think if it's doping, it's probably an individual here or there."
If the home fans left a little dour, it was also not a very good day for those in the cycling or Olympic community who would like to make the case that doping has gone away.
That possibility was shattered when Alexander Vinokurov of Kazakhstan sprinted away from Columbian Rigoberto Uran Uran in the last 400 yards to win the race. Vinokurov was kicked out of the Tour de France for doping, and suspended for two years before returning in 2009.
"He served his time," Horner said. "Those are the rules, he comes back and everybody wants to hang him. I don't see any Superman numbers when I'm on his wheel."
Horner, who spoke with reporters as he stood next to his bike across a barricade, munched on a Big Mac and French fries. His face was scraped and his fair skin was burned.
Beside his crash and his near crash, Horner had to switch bikes when a pedal arm fell off. A Tour de France veteran, he finished 49 seconds behind the leaders, in 93rd place.
"It was a pretty epic day," said Horner, who could not help but laugh about his travails, something that the British - their love of cheeky humor notwithstanding - could not.