In one crucial respect, however, the British team's showing was worse than four years ago - and the cries of doom and disaster must be heeded. Helsinki exposed a catastrophic lack of depth in the ranks of British athletics. There were many events in which Britain had no competitor at all because no one met the qualifying standard. In middle-distance running, where Sebastian Coe - now Lord Coe and the head of our successful Olympics bid - distinguished himself, the tradition has lapsed.
There are some glimmers of hope among Britain's juniors, but between them and the heroes who have retired or are nearing the end of their careers looms a great void. Helsinki sounds an alarm.
If Britain has any prospect of covering itself in glory at the Olympic Games it fought so hard to host, urgent action must be taken. One good sign is that athletics officials are not talking down the problem. British athletics needs a thorough shake-up, contracts need to be redrawn and training arrangements rethought. There is time before 2012, but it will be a race to the tape.