NICK WESTBY: Olympic diary - London ready to put on a Games worthy of ‘Greatest Show’ tag

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IT was on a maiden journey to the Olympic Park that the enormity of London 2012 came into view.

Tower Bridge, bedecked by the vast five Olympic rings hanging proudly around its neck, was where the reality hit home about how an Olympics can cast its spell on a city.

Those symbolic rings were everywhere; on street signs, billboards, the side of buses and on tourist information offices.

Purple-shirted Games Makers swarmed the capital, assisting, encouraging and delighting.

People milled about in the parks and on the pavements; many of them wearing clothing sporting the Olympic logo or the team of their employment.

The mix-up over Korean flags, the G4S security broohaha – all forgotten.

Not even the muggy, overcast skies that replaced six days of belated summer sunshine could dampen the spirits.

Should we have been surprised that rain fell as the opening ceremony drew ever nearer?

Until that facinating, storytelling of an opening ceremony, it had been a rather inauspicious start.

At the first Olympic competition to commence in the actual host city – following on from the first round of the women’s and men’s football around the United Kingdom – the atmosphere was muted.

There were no medals to be won in the archery ranking round at Lord’s cricket ground, but for some – this correspondent included – it was an eagerly-anticipated first taste of Olympic action.

So it came as quite a surprise that in a world where sports people are guarded like cherished idols no matter what their status, reporters, volunteers or anyone in the vicinity could walk up behind the archers and stand just five foot behind them as they conversed with their coaches and discussed the wind direction.

It would be hard to imagine having such intimacy with Usain Bolt and his fellow sprinters as they prepare for the opening round of the 100m.

The absence of spectators due to the misunderstanding over tickets, as discussed in the main piece below, made for a strange atmosphere at Lord’s.

It was only the interest in the event from media outlets from all corners of the world that brought home the fact that this was indeed the Olympics, and that when the knockout stages get underway today, and the fans are allowed to pour onto the hallowed turf of the home of cricket, the atmosphere will pick up considerably.

The Olympics draws all sorts, notably a very large collection of journalists from Venezuela.

Away from the multi-cultural first action of the day, it was the opening ceremony that drew the crowds in their thousands to the Olympic Park in the east end of London.

People poured into the capital in their numbers to bear witness to the biggest celebration in sport.

Commencing at around 9pm and not scheduled to finish until after midnight, it was London’s chance to show to the world it is not only ready for the Games, but determined to live up to the promise of Olympics gone by with another exhibition of the greatest show on earth.

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