LONDON - Agence France-Presse
The London Olympics have defied predictions of doom and gloom to become a joyous event that has seen Britain embrace the Games “in a way few of us thought possible”, Sebastian Coe said.
In a letter to mark the first week of the Games, London Games chief Coe said competitors and officials were enjoying their time in London.
“The most pleasing part of this first week of the Games has been feedback from athletes and team officials who have said they have rarely, if ever, witnessed sport that has been so well presented, attended or so compelling,” Coe wrote.
“There have been problems - some badminton players trying to lose matches, a couple of doping cheats - but nothing yet to shatter the dream,” he said.
The weeks leading up to the Games were a rocky ride for the organisers after a private security contractor failed to provide thousands of private guards.
But the military stepped in to fill the gap and the largest security operation in British peacetime history has worked smoothly.
There were also largely unrealised fears about transport and traffic holdups -- in fact, central London is quieter than usual.
“The finishing line still seems quite far away but things are going better than anyone in my team could have expected, based on some of the predictions of gloom and doom in the lead-up to the event, which tends to be part of the landscape for all Games, it seems,” Coe said.‘Spectacular success’
Britain has spent 9.3 billion pounds to host the first Olympics in London since 1948 -- and Coe said it had been a “spectacular success” so far. The Games had “transformed a naturally cautious British public into a nation of delirious cheerleaders,” he said.
The man who won two gold medals in athletics said he was delighted that Britain was taking unfamiliar sports to heart as a result of hosting the Olympics.
“Ordinary people with no previous interest in sport are asking arcane questions about the rules of the keirin cycling event or why three-day eventing lasts four days,” the former runner wrote.
In the letter -- penned before Britain’s most successful day at an Olympics for 104 years on Saturday -- Coe picked out the performances of history-making swimmer Michael Phelps and British cyclist Bradley Wiggins as two outstanding moments.
He made no direct reference to the criticism of the organising committee for the banks of empty seats dotted around venues in the early days of the Games - local organizers LOCOG blamed team officials for failing to fill the seats.
Yet Coe pointedly underlined that 80,000 people had filled the Olympic stadium to the capacity on Aug. 3 for the first morning session of athletics in a “first.”
“Even Sydney in 2000, where local enthusiasm for the Games set new standards, could not quite manage that,” he said.