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Making the grade: How did the London Olympics stack up?

LONDON – Great Britain doesn't like to be made fun of, and heading into these Olympic Games one of the primary concerns for the locals was not being embarrassed.

Following the extraordinary and lavish display of national pride that was Beijing, 2008 was going to be a difficult act to follow, and Londoners feared a calamity-ridden Games that would give the city and the country a black eye in front of the world.

Throw in the administrative hurdle of a global economic downturn, and London had plenty of factors stacked against it, but has managed to get to the finish line without any major issues.

[ Video: Why the London tabloids love the Olympians ]

As ever at the end of an Olympics, thoughts turn to how it stacks up against those that came before it. So how did London fare?

Crowds: B+

The ones that got in were terrific. Eighty thousand per night at track and field, swimming and boxing packed, basketball overloaded, even nearly 30,000 for dressage. The locals were into it, and London was accessible to so many nations. Plus, this is one of the most, if not the most, diverse city in the world, so many who live here now could root on the nation they left behind. The energy was incredible.

The only downside was the traditional plague of empty seats courtesy of sponsor and IOC sections. London was slow to react with a plan to fill them with people who couldn't get a ticket in the first place.

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(AP)

(AP)

Venues: A

Perhaps no city in the world could produce such a combination of traditional landmarks, historic sporting grounds and modern construction.

The marathon finished by Buckingham Palace, beach volleyball was at the Horse Guard Parade, equestrian in a park founded in 1427, archery at the two-century-old Lord's Cricket Grounds, tennis was at Wimbledon, soccer was played Wembley and Old Trafford in Manchester and so on.

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London is about history and the Games showcased it brilliantly. The city then added a terrific Olympic Stadium for athletics, including a fast track, a spectator-friendly set up for rowing, and a number of perfect smaller spots such as badminton, combat sports and BMX. There wasn't a bad set up out there.

Transportation: A

Blessed with an extensive subway system and a country that long ago invested in rail services, London was a in a great spot. They then upped the number of trains to avoid congestion and, to the luck of visitors, a lot of locals took off and left the streets free of major congestion. Everything worked. And we minded the gap.

Closing times: D

Apparently the Brits like to get to bed early. Many kitchens close at 10 p.m., many bars by 1 a.m.. Much of the rest of the world likes to hang out a bit later – in many countries, particularly around the Mediterranean, you don't even go out until midnight. This was a culture war. We're on the side of keeping things open late.

Tomato soup: A

British restaurants aren't much for vegetables but across the board they made a mean bowl of tomato soup.

Air conditioning: F

Unless you like a soft push of lukewarm air to cool you off.

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Newspapers: A

This may be an internet site, but it was a throwback to be in a city where reading the paper, or six or seven papers, was a regular part of the day. Tabloids ran from entertainingly trashy to respectable. Broadsheets were serious and well written. Everyone liked running big pics of Princess Kate, Jessica Ennis and women's beach volleyball.

Beer: C+

Zero consistency on temperature, pour or taste, although it was always readily available.

Mascot: F

That thing (Wenlock) is creepy. Bring back Bei Bei and Jing Jing.

Royal family: C

The Queen acted in an opening ceremony video. The rest of them mugged it up for every camera available in a shameless bit of look-at-us-we're-normal-fans. What exactly do they do again? If they didn't have Kate this would be one sorry lot. And where the heck was Pippa?

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