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London’s games earn gold

A city employee works overnight as crews remove the Olympic rings from London streets following the completion of the 2012 Summer Games. (Associated Press)
A city employee works overnight as crews remove the Olympic rings from London streets following the completion of the 2012 Summer Games. (Associated Press)

Even critics praise Olympics

LONDON — For skeptics, the Olympics were deliciously doomed: London’s transport network would surely fail, Britain’s athletes would flop, rain would prevail and terrorists would strike. But then the sun came out after months of sodden skies, vehicles moved briskly, there were no attacks and British athletes reeled in a shocking 65 medals.

On Monday, as international athletes and visitors poured out of London and the city’s 8 million residents resumed their normal lives, British officials hailed the 2012 Olympics as an unqualified success. Even the naysayers predicting doom and gloom had to eat their words.

“I was moaning like everyone else before the games, thinking the roads would be packed and nothing would work,” said London shopkeeper Yvette Tracton, 28. “But it’s been brilliant.”

Heathrow Airport built a temporary Olympics terminal with 31 check-in desks to accommodate departing athletes and support staff. The terminal was decorated like a park, and some staff wore hats in the style of Buckingham Palace guards.

“I have to say to Britain, you guys did a great job,” said passenger Tumua Anae, a 23-year-old Californian who won gold as part of the U.S. water polo team.

London’s quirky mayor, Boris Johnson, gloated to reporters, saying London had defied the skeptics. Some 300,000 foreigners and 5.5 million day-trippers flocked to the city for the games.

Johnson said the city’s public transport had coped just fine. Use of London’s subway – the Tube – was up 30 percent but saw few major problems. London’s overground commuter train saw double the normal crowds, and the city’s bike hire scheme broke a record with 46,000 bikes rented on a single day.

Security officials, too, could cheer the lack of any major incident during the games.

Britain has been a prime target of Islamic terror groups because of its support for the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Dozens of plots, including the 2006 attempt to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners, have been hatched within Britain’s sizable Muslim population.

But while police made some 250 arrests, there were no attacks – something officials attributed to years of planning and boosted intelligence resources.

“I’m very proud that we didn’t have anything serious to deal with, but that was because of a lot of hard work done by a lot of people,” Olympics security coordinator Chris Allison said.

Seventeen Olympic venues around the country will eventually be dismantled. But some will remain for the upcoming Paralympics, which run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.

Until then, London can bask in the memories of an event that went very much as intended.

Carmelina Moscato, a member of the bronze-medal Canadian soccer team, said participating in the games was like “being in dreamland.”

“I could not have asked for more,” she said.