The mood in London this week has changed from one of apprehension to one of anticipation.
On Tuesday, when talking of the Games, the local newspapers were fixated on possible shortcomings.
Security, infrastructure, and weather were the chief concerns.
There was a threat of a strike among border and immigration officials just as Heathrow was getting ready for it's busiest day in history, when 125,000 people made their way through London's busiest airport Thursday. Mitt Romney, President of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee when that town hosted the Games, told a television host he was concerned about a possible security breach.
There's been a great deal of concern over how to get about town.
At the best of times London is difficult to negotiate. When dedicated Olympic vehicle lanes were introduced midweek, regular commuters expected the worst. Taxi drivers, some of whom used the lanes anyway, were promptly fined more than $200. On the Tube there are regular announcements asking locals to find other ways to get to for the Games or just stay home and work. Each time the announcements are made, people in the subway cars grumble about what an inconvenience these Games have become. Just for tourists they say. That's usually when I duck behind my Daily Telegraph.
And the weather has wreaked its share of havoc.
About a foot of rain fell here in late spring and early summer which helped flowers and weeds flourish. For the past week though, southern England has been hotter than Southern Spain - well into the 30 degree celsius range. With a light wind blowing it's been a perfect storm for hay fever sufferers. Pollen counts are 4 times higher than normal. I could have won a gold medal for sneezing this week. Imagine what athletes will feel like. All a big inconvenience the papers claimed.The mood is changing
And yet, with the arrival of the Olympic torch in Hyde Park Thursday night, things began to change.
Sixty thousand people waited about 6 hours in the heat just for the chance to welcome the torch. When the ceremonial cauldron was lit the crowd erupted. Miniature Union Jacks seemed to be in the hands of everyone in attendance. London's flamboyant mayor, Boris Johnson, seemed like a pep rally leader.
"Will we put on the best Olympics ever?!!", he asked the crowd.
"Yes!" was the response.
"Will we beat Germany and France and the Aussies?!"
"Someone named Mitt Romney says we're not ready. Are we ready???!!"
The next two weeks will show whether Johnson is right. In the meantime, the talk of London, whether in the papers or the pubs, is shifting. Outside the pub which has quickly become my local here in the Kensington neighborhood, I heard one elderly patron ask the bartender "Do you think (cyclist Mark) Cavendish can win gold on day one?" I'd heard that same man talking earlier in the week only about what could go wrong at the Games. There was no talk of sports.
When I got back to my hotel room I switched on BBC's nightly newscast. One of the lead stories? Could this be the most successful Games ever?
"Sydney and Barcelona were the Games where the most events were sold out." "On that basis, (the reporter went on to say) the London Games could easily be the best ever".
How things have changed.
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