Can it really be six-and-a-half years since the International Olympic Committee awarded London the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games?
It seems only yesterday that I was in the Brakes development kitchen in Covent Garden, listening to the screams of delight from the crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square as the announcement was beamed live from Singapore.
You don't need me to describe to you the nosedive the global economy has taken in the intervening years.
With banks collapsing about us, nations' economies buckling at the knees, dwindling consumer confidence hitting discretionary spend hard and corporate spend being scrutinised as never before, there's never been a more challenging time to work in hospitality.
Last summer, Prime Minister David Cameron told us he viewed hospitality and tourism as essential to rebuilding the British economy. The subsequent rise in VAT to 20% did nothing to deliver on this vision; and next April's hike in business rates will deal operators another kick in the teeth.
Given such circumstances, we should thank our stars for the London Games.
Olympic naysayers will point to spiralling costs, white elephants and ephemeral legacies.
Let them carp. The games commence in a little over 200 days, and we have to believe that they can offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hospitality to showcase itself.
Your reward for helping to provide a world-class welcome next summer may not come immediately. But, by helping to promote our country to a global audience, you'll be guaranteeing many years of inbound tourism.
Come the New Year, let's all play our part in making the 2012 games a truly historic occasion.
Meanwhile, Happy Christmas from everyone at Caterer and Hotelkeeper.
By Mark Lewis
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