For skeptics, the Olympics were deliciously doomed: London's transport network would surely fail, Britain's athletes would flop, rain would prevail and terrorists would strike. But then the sun came out after months of sodden skies, vehicles moved briskly, there were no attacks and British athletes reeled in a shocking 65 medals.

On Monday, as international athletes and visitors poured out of London and the city's 8 million residents resumed their normal lives, British officials hailed the 2012 Olympics as an unqualified success. Even the naysayers predicting doom and gloom had to eat their words.

"I was moaning like everyone else before the games, thinking the roads would be packed and nothing would work," said London shopkeeper Yvette Tracton, 28. "But it's been brilliant."

Celebrations kicked off around the country as athletes returned home to cheering crowds. Leeds gave a special reception to three medalists, including triathlon gold and bronze-winning brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.

"It's been a fantastic week in London, but to come home to Leeds is better than anything else," said Alistair. His brother Jonathan described the thousands on hand for their hero's welcome as "absolutely incredible," saying he hadn't realized how much their success galvanized supporters back home.

Some 116,000 people were leaving Monday from Heathrow Airport, London's busiest hub, compared with 95,000 for a typical August day. Gatwick Airport was handling 70,000 departing passengers, 15 percent more than usual. Airports had come under scrutiny in the months leading up to the Olympics for lacking the staff to deal with backlogs of people and luggage, but Monday's crowds moved through without a hitch.


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The exodus included thousands of athletes and Prime Minister David Cameron, who was heading on vacation to the Mediterranean.

Heathrow built a temporary Olympics terminal with 31 check-in desks to accommodate departing athletes and support staff. The terminal was decorated like a park, and some staff wore bearskin hats in the style of Buckingham Palace guards.

"I have to say to Britain, you guys did a great job," said passenger Tumua Anae, a 23-year-old Californian who won gold as part of the U.S. water polo team.

London's quirky mayor, Boris Johnson, gloated to reporters, saying London had defied the skeptics. Some 300,000 foreigners and 5.5 million day-trippers flocked to the city for the games. Hotel occupancy was at 84 percent -- double what Beijing and Sydney saw during their Olympics.

Johnson said the city's public transport had coped just fine. Use of London's subway -- the Tube -- was up 30 percent but saw few major problems. London's overground commuter train saw double the normal crowds, and the city's bike hire scheme broke a record with 46,000 bikes rented on a single day.

Traffic actually became heavier on Monday as motorists who had stayed away to avoid Olympic crowds returned to the streets. Taxi drivers breathed a sigh of relief after having complained of fewer customers and being barred from using special Olympic road lanes.

Security officials, too, could cheer the lack of any major incident during the games.

Britain has been a prime target of Islamic terror groups because of its support for the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Dozens of plots, including the 2006 attempt to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners, have been hatched within Britain's sizable Muslim population.

Upping the fear factor was an Olympic security contractor's admission just weeks before the games that it would have a shortfall of guards. In the end, the military had to provide 3,500 last-minute personnel, and contractor G4S expects to lose up to 50 million pounds ($78 million).

But while police made some 250 arrests, there were no attacks -- something officials attributed to years of planning and boosted intelligence resources.

"I'm very proud that we didn't have anything serious to deal with, but that was because of a lot of hard work done by a lot of people," said Olympics security coordinator Chris Allison.

Doping bust: Shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus became the first athlete to be stripped of a medal at the London Olympics after her gold was withdrawn Monday for doping.

Valerie Adams of New Zealand was awarded the gold, and Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia was bumped up to silver. Fourth-place finisher Gong Lijiao of China was moved up to bronze.

The International Olympic Committee said Ostapchuk tested positive for the steroid metenolone. She won the shot put exactly a week earlier. The IOC said she was tested the day before her competition and again after the event. Both samples were positive.

The Belarus team had already sent home hammer thrower Ivan Tsikhan because of suspicions over a sample provided after his silver-medal performance at the 2004 Athens Games.

Flight upgrade: Members of the Japan women's soccer team returned home on the weekend and got upgraded to business class after winning a silver medal at the London Games. The team took exception to flying in economy class while their male counterparts sat in business class en route to the games.

Vanishing beach: The sand, volleyballs and bikinis have departed London's government district, leaving politicians and civil servants behind. Workers using forklift trucks, cherry pickers and small cranes have begun dismantling the temporary Olympic beach volleyball arena on Horseguards Parade -- a storied square in the heart of London's Westminster area.

Sand cleared away from the venue will be used to construct 36 new beach volleyball courts in southern England, part of efforts to boost the sport's profile in Britain.

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