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Workers put the finishing touches on the House of Flags display at Parliament Square in preparation for the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 26, 2012, in London. More than 200 panels represent the countries participating in the London Games. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Lewis: London hoping to impress the world with Olympics
Olympics » Despite the early controversies, prime minister insists “Britain can deliver.”
First Published Jul 26 2012 11:55 am • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:33 pm


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Yep, the London Olympics have them all, and they haven’t even started yet.

The gun goes off — so to speak — with the opening ceremony on Friday, commencing 16 days of competition that, if we are to trust the characteristic cheek and good humor of the hosts, is going to be a lot more fun than the stifling Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Of course, what’s not fun about throwing a $14 billion party in the middle of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities?

Oh, right.

The London Olympics already have been besieged by challenges and controversy, though no less a figure than British Prime Minister David Cameron, standing alongside organizing chairman and two-time gold medalist Sebastian Coe in front of the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, promised that in spite of it all, the London Olympics are going to be a rousing success.

"You’re going to see beyond doubt that Britain can deliver," he said.

That would be splendid, wouldn’t it, if the sun stayed out and the traffic remained jammed only to its usual maddening level and whoever they finally convinced to be security guards had nothing more to fret than maybe a misplaced purse or a lost tourist?

That way, everybody would be able to relax and enjoy the excitement and achievement of athletes such as sprinter Usain Bolt, swimmer Michael Phelps and two-time champion fencer Mariel Zagunis, who charmingly said her election as the American flag-bearer for the Opening Ceremony after four tied votes was "a cherry on top of a pile of cherries that were already there."

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See, that’s the spirit.

The world soon will see how much of that the Brits have, once some 10,500 athletes from 204 countries descend in full force, followed by 20,000 credentialed members of the media and millions of fans from all over the world.

Cameron insisted British enthusiasm for the Games won’t be a problem, citing the millions who have turned out to watch the Olympic flame make its way around the Kingdom, en route to the stadium for the ceremony, where legendary runner Roger Bannister has become the hot favorite to light the cauldron.

"The torch relay really demonstrated that this is not a London games, this is not an England games, this a United Kingdom Games," he said. "We will show the whole world not just that we come together as a United Kingdom, but also we’re extremely good at welcoming people from across the world."

The ceremony will be the first event to really showcase the personality of the Games, and that promises to be as British as British can be, with acclaimed director Danny Boyle of "Slumdog Millionaire" fame in charge of the $41 million production.

Yet the ceremony hadn’t even taken place yet when organizers committed their first official cock-up — yes, that’s a legitimate British term — of the Olympics, showing the South Korean flag on a stadium video screen when the North Korean women’s soccer team was being introduced at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

Think of it as the international version of broadcasting the Utah logo next to a photo of Max Hall.

The angry North Koreans left the field and refused to play until the situation was corrected, forcing Cameron to join the Olympic organizers in offering apologies. It was an "honest mistake," the prime minster said.

The concern, though, is that it was just the first apology that will be required here, for greater and greater missteps — though the International Olympic Committee has refused to apologize for not including a moment of silence in the Opening Ceremony on the 40th anniversary of the "Black September" terrorist attacks that killed 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Games in Germany.

"We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident," IOC President Jacques Rogge said last week.

On another front, dozens of athletes have been kept from the Olympics due to failed drug tests, among the 71,649 carried out by the World Anti-Doping Agency before the Games — with another 6,000 expected during what WADA President John Fahey said will be the "most tested Games in Olympic history."

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