London: Maybe it was Danny Boyle’s spectacular, chaotic, unmistakably British opening ceremony. Maybe it was the unprecedented sight of the head of state jumping out of a helicopter in pink evening dress clutching her hand bag. Maybe it is the glorious sunny weather.

Staff work in a London 2012 shop selling official merchandise in Green Park, central London. Photo: Reuters

On Saturday morning, more than a million spectators are believed to have lined the streets for the eagerly awaited road cycling event. The numbers may well have swelled to even more by the time the lead cyclists exploded into The Mall for the sprint finish. However, the race was a disaster for Team GB fans. British cyclists, strong favourites at the start, won no medals.

At my neighbourhood Tesco supermarket, the shelves are beginning to get loaded up with Olympics merchandise. For the past two weeks, you were lucky if you could spot the odd keychain, wrist band or face paint kit.

Not any more.

On Sunday morning, there was a brand new shelf complete with masks, flags, inflatable thunder sticks and bunting. At least two little children in the store were dressed from head to foot in child-sized Team GB uniforms. “She is very enthusiastic. Though she has really no idea what is going on," said one parent sheepishly.

Meanwhile, London seems to coping reasonably well. Most locals, with typically British optimism, had expected the city to disintegrate by now—with visitors and locals engaged in pitched street battles armed with sporting equipment, the underground trains occupied by rioters, and starving old people reduced to eating each other.

There are the odd organizational mishaps. There was chaos on Friday outside Lord’s after several spectators turned up to watch preliminary rounds of archery, thinking “unticketed" meant free entry. It didn’t. It meant no entry whatsoever. Some even turned up with fake tickets bought from touts.

On Saturday, there were long lines at Wimbledon as visitors came to pick up pre-booked tickets. The BBC reported that one of the ticket counters was dysfunctional as nobody had the key to open it. But it appears that these incidents were uncommon. By and large, London is still holding it together.

One Indian couple got in touch with me just to rave about how painless their ticketing experiences were. They landed at Earl’s Court tube station, near the volleyball venue, only to be met by volunteers right on the station platforms. The couple had tickets booked for two events at two venues—Earl’s Court and Wembley Arena—and were planning to visit both ticket counters to pick up tickets. But it turned out that all the ticketing counters across London are hooked up to a central networks of computers. And you can pick up all your tickets at any one counter.

The most convincing sign that London is no gung-ho is the refreshing lack of negative stories on the BBC’s home page. First, the opening ceremony and now the sports over-shadow everything else.

The only sore point right now is the mystery of the empty seats.

Several venues on the opening days had blocks of empty premium seats. Now there is much anger when unsuccessful ticket applicants at home note empty seats on TV. The organizers have promised to investigate. Right now, it seems likely that the seats belong to members of the so-called Olympics Family, a clever euphemism for the gaggle of sponsors, associated firms, press and participants. Sebastian Coe, chief of London 2012, has reiterated his promise to name and shame sponsors that block tickets but don’t use them.

sidin.v@livemint.com

Also Read |Women make their presence felt

Close