No pressure, London - "No Fun City" shows how it's done

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By Kevin Fylan

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - These Winter Olympics showed London 2012 that great sport and people of passion will help you overcome any number of problems, while a home gold rush can set a Games on the way to greatness.

Organizers received a stream of negative feedback early in the Games, after the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was followed by a series of mishaps and blunders and spectacularly unhelpful weather.

That Vancouver managed to change the mood was down to the enthusiasm of the crowds, the excellence of the competition, the city's warmth of welcome and the small matter of Canada's 14 gold medals, culminating in the dramatic overtime victory in men's hockey on the closing day.

London cannot guarantee that sort of sporting success, of course, and there is no equivalent of the Own the Podium program that served Canada so well, but they can make sure they deliver on the other key factors.

Sebastian Coe, chair of the organizing committee for London 2012, highlighted the passionate crowds both at the venues and in the city as major strengths of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

"I don't think the criticism of the Games has been fair," Coe told Reuters on a visit to Vancouver this week.

"I think there has been a lot of good positive stuff and my assessment is that they have got the key things right in these Games.

"The stadiums are full and clearly full of people who look like they want to be there, which tells me they've got the ticketing strategy right.


"The streets have really adopted these Games too ... and of course the sport has been great. Home town wins always help and the volunteer service has been outstanding. So if you get those things right you tend to have a pretty good Games."

Security and transport have been highlighted as major challenges for the British capital and there may not have been too many lessons learned in Canada on those two fronts.

Security in Vancouver was noticeably less stringent at venues than at the last Summer Games in Beijing in 2008 and transport was not a major problem in a city with much less severe traffic problems.

What Vancouver did show London was how to stage a Games to be enjoyed by everyone, from athletes to spectators to the general public, who embraced the Olympics with hands uniformly clad in red Olympic mittens.

At times there was a Mardi Gras atmosphere in downtown Vancouver, and this in a place sometimes described by residents themselves as No Fun City.

No amount of planning will guarantee a party like the one Vancouverites enjoyed on Sunday after that heartstopping hockey gold but London will have to show it can get the local population engaged and enthused.

In that sense, Vancouver has set the bar extremely high.

(Editing by Jon Bramley)