By Peter Barker
LONDON, Aug 7 (Xinhua) -- With the end of the first week of the Olympic Games, London looks to have successfully leapt over the hurdles many commentators anticipated for it and produced an Olympic Games that it is taking pride in.
Even the English weather, famed for its showers and changeability, is flattering the Olympics with a backdrop that has often been sunny and warm.
However, there are still problems for the city and the Games.
Principal among these is transport. London's Underground network, while being among the world's largest, is also the world's oldest dating back nearly 150 years in places.
The most serious set of travel incidents to affect the Olympics came on Friday, when the Tube system's Central Line, which runs west to east across London and which is one of just two Underground lines to serve the Olympic Park, was shut because of a signals failure at the beginning of the morning rush hour.
Stratford station, right next door to the Olympic Park and the transport hub where 11 Tube, rail, and light rail lines meet, was geared up for its busiest day so far in the Games, with the opening of athletics events in the main stadium.
Officials expected Stratford to handle 200,000 travellers, and in a bid to deter visitors the giant Westfield Shopping Center, next door to the Games site and opened only a couple of months before the Games began, was closed to the public unless they had Olympic tickets or worked in the Olympic Park.
CONGESTION AND SIGNAL FAILURES
London's transport network runs at close to capacity at rush hour, and the effect of the Central Line closure quickly led to other lines becoming crowded. The Javelin train service of high-speed trains that make the eight-kilometer journey from central London to the Olympic Park in seven minutes, quickly became full, and queues outside central London's St Pancras station to use the service stretched round the block.
On Tuesday last week a signal failure at the beginning of the evening rush hour on the railway line out of one of London's busiest commuter stations, Cannon Street, caused chaos.
Cannon Street and the nearby London Bridge station are both hotspots for Olympic travel and were severely affected, with some commuters taking over three hours to make journeys home which would normally take 30 minutes.
But it had no serious effect on Games spectators. The anticipated meltdown of the transport system has not happened -- yet.
In part this is because the British government and many offices in London have encouraged staff to work from home for the Games period.
Seasoned commuters have also chosen to travel outside rush hour, or to change their route to work to avoid hotspots in the transport network.
Many people have simply left London for the duration of the Olympics to avoid the disruption.
This has led to commuter trains in the morning rush hour being less full than usual.
On the first weekend of the Games the area around Westminster, Hyde Park, and Buckingham Palace were all very quiet, except for Games tourists who had come to see cycling along the Mall, and beach volleyball at Horse Guards. Londoners were staying away, as well as conventional tourists.
This will have a negative effect on businesses, said Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics London Project.
Travers told Xinhua, "There's no doubt the Games was expected to produce a positive impact. I think in the first week there has been a mixed picture."
A large number of people are in London who would not normally be there, and ridership on the Underground is up, said Travers.
Many of those people will be spending money, and there will be lots of corporate and diplomatic expenditure on entertaining.
However the West End of London has been relatively empty, said Travers.
He added, "I think that that will have depressed holiday spending, and possibly shopping spending last week and I think that up to now it has been a mixed picture. We will have to wait until after the Games to make a fair judgment but it is definitely not a sort of spend-spend-spend bonanza for the London economy."
INCONVENIENCE FOR RESIDENTS
Londoners are paying a price for the Olympics visiting their city, and not just from their wallets.
The 96 kilometers of the Olympic route network, that stretches across the congested capital from Heathrow airport in the west to the Olympic Park site in Stratford in East London, and from there into the south London Games venues of Wimbledon, Greenwich, and Woolwich, has angered Londoners with its exclusivity and made already-congested roads even more crowded.
Strict parking restrictions have been put on roads near the Games venues, causing inconvenience for locals who need to apply for parking permits for visitors, friends, and tradesmen. Any vehicle found breaking the rules will be hauled away and the owner fined 130 pounds (about 203 U.S. dollars).
Security has also raised concerns. Anti-aircraft missiles have been very publicly stationed around the main Olympic Park, with some on top of blocks of flats.
Angry residents tried to fight the decision by the government through the courts just before the Olympics but were defeated.
Some of them will have been among the sizeable number of Londoners who have chosen to leave the city for the Olympic period and enjoy their summer vacation.