Just one euphoric night and three days in, we realise that we risk being awarded the wooden spoon in the sport of rushing to judgement. Even at this early stage in the London Olympics, however, it can escape no one that there are lessons that have been, and can still, be learnt.
First: vying with Beijing. For the opening ceremony, London, in the capable, quirky imagination of Danny Boyle, did not even try. The UK chose a different discipline, but one that played no less to its strengths than Beijing's ultra-regimented extravaganza did to its. So what if some of its language was not universal, or (thanks, NBC) there were sections deemed too downbeat for a viewership trained in The Wizard of Oz? It worked.
Second: empty seats. One of London's stated priorities was to avoid the banks of vacant seats that so blighted Beijing. Yet this is precisely what met competitors at some of the most oversubscribed events – to universal indignation. The speed with which some of these seats were, first, made available to those in the park, then released for sale, is to be commended. But if, as it appears, the villains are less the commercial sponsors than national sporting associations and, oh dear, the media, the greater fallout could be for organisers in Rio, who may find themselves trying to curb the appetite of the "Olympic family" for tickets.
Third: transport. The capital's much-maligned network has so far coped – fingers crossed. Some 80,000 people left the stadium at 1am after the Opening Ceremony without undue delays. Hundreds of thousands went to various venues over the weekend and presumably, judging by the lack of complaints, arrived home again. Yesterday's London morning rush-hour passed off quietly, as the city's workforce followed instructions to stagger starts, work from home, or grin and bear it. In the – perhaps unlikely – event that this continues, there are questions that will be asked, such as: if London's transport can work reliably for the Olympics, why not always? Do so many people need to work in central London? Granted that the "ZiL" lanes should not be extended a moment longer than necessary, might there not be an argument for tougher restrictions on cars and deliveries?
Fourth: international perspective. This is London 2012, and it is natural that the home audience will gravitate towards the sports in which Team GB excels. But the emphasis on these sports to the virtual exclusion of others, even with the plethora of "red button" TV options, risks diminishing some of the uniqueness of London as a global metropolis and the Olympics as a showcase for a host of sports with which British viewers are less familiar.
Fifth: who's counting? It is early days, but something of this same parochialism fosters an unseemly preoccupation with "our" medal count. It would be a pity if it was a dearth of Team GB medals – rather than a recognition that numbers are not everything – that led the BBC to stop harping on the medal tally. But it would be useful to know more broadly who was winning the medals when it was not Team GB. There is still time to get this right.
Sixth: the shared national experience. Much has been made of the very British knack of evincing scorn or apathy about some national endeavour, only to embrace it in the best possible spirit at the 11th hour. London 2012 already looks like a classic of the genre. But the value of an experience in which everyone can take pride should not be trivialised. The benevolent holiday atmosphere that has prevailed since Friday and the roof-raising support shown for home competitors are already making the country feel better, about itself and about the world.Reuse content