* Bradley Wiggins' Tour victory boosts British hopes
* Syrian athletes arrive, freed Libyan chief en route
* Transport woes temper celebratory mood
By Karolos Grohmann and Mike Collett-White
LONDON, July 23 Britain basked in the glory of
Bradley Wiggins' historic triumph in cycling's Tour de France on
Monday and looked ahead with relish to more sporting success at
the Olympics, boosting the nation's hopes after a troubled
buildup to the 2012 Games.
Olympic officials announced that Syria's athletes had
arrived to take part in the London Games, ending uncertainty
over whether the nation under increasing international pressure
for a bloody civil conflict would be officially represented.
In a reminder of logistical challenges facing London as it
prepared to stage the greatest show on earth, commuters using
the ageing metro system reported major delays and transport
union RMT called for fresh, albeit limited, industrial action.
And Olympic chief Jacques Rogge reassured 11 million
ticket-holders that the July 27-Aug. 12 Games would be safe,
after the failure of private security firm G4S to provide enough
guards provoked heated debate among politicians and in European
Thousands of extra soldiers were recruited to fill the gap
at an event where security concerns are particularly high - 2012
is the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich attack by Palestinian
militants that killed 11 Israeli Olympic team members.
Rogge paid tribute to the victims at a symbolic ceremony at
the Athletes Village on Monday, although he has turned down
repeated calls to mark the anniversary at the opening event.
"We're very confident that security will be very, very
good," Rogge told BBC, when asked about the G4S scandal.
"I believe we have to move on. The problem has been
identified, the problem has been addressed in a good way," added
the president of the International Olympic Committee.
Britain was rocked by suicide attacks on London's transport
system that killed 52 people in July 2005, the day after the
city was awarded the 2012 Games.
A huge security operation, complete with rooftop missiles
and costing around one billion pounds, has been staged, but the
fact that security levels have not been raised points to
confidence the Games are not being specifically targeted.
More than 16,000 athletes from 204 nations will contest
medals across Britain at the Games, bringing the thrill of
victory and despair of defeat to millions of onlookers and
billions more watching on screens around the world.
Household names like Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and U.S.
swimmer Michael Phelps will seek to steal the limelight with
more titles and world records, although question marks over the
runner's fitness, specifically a tight hamstring, linger.
More obscure but no less dramatic is the promised attendance
of Libyan Olympic Committee President Nabil Elalem, who will be
in London after being freed on Sunday a week after being seized
by gunmen in Tripoli.
Syria will be represented, although Pere Miro, in charge of
relations with national Olympic committees, told Reuters that
some officials had decided not to come, avoiding potential
embarrassment given the condemnation of the tactics being used
by President Bashar al-Assad to try to halt the uprising.
The signs on Monday were that, after a negative buildup to
the Olympics by Britain's notoriously caustic media, the
feel-good factor had arrived at last.
Even the weather obliged - the sprawling Olympic Park in a
once poor quarter of east London where many medals will be
fought for across myriad venues basked in uninterrupted sunshine
following an unseasonably wet June and early July.
Newspaper front pages and radio and television programmes
were full of Wiggins' Tour de France win, the first British
victory in what is billed as the world's most prestigious race.
And with fellow Briton Mark Cavendish sprinting to the stage
win along the Champs Elysees in Paris, attention turned to their
chances of winning home cycling golds at the Games.
Cavendish, who will contest one of the first medal events in
London on Saturday, was in bullish mood.
"I'm very ready for the Olympics now," he said after his
stage win in Paris. "We're going to have an incredibly strong
team and we're not just going to the Games to see how it goes."
In another nod to British success on two wheels, four-time
Olympic track cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy will carry the
British flag at the opening athletes' parade.
On Monday, the Olympic torch made its way around the capital
and completes its journey on Friday evening when the cauldron is
lit, symbolising the start to the Games at a ceremony expected
to be a more intimate affair than the 2008 Beijing extravaganza.
That promises to be a "wow moment", British Olympic
Association chief executive Andy Hunt said at the weekend, with
the identity of the privileged role of lighter and even the
location of the cauldron still a closely-guarded secret.
In the afternoon the torch goes to Wimbledon where Andy
Murray, this year's men's runner-up at the grand slam event,
will carry it on to Centre Court and hand it to former women's
Olympic tennis champion Venus Williams of the United States.
With four days to go until the opening ceremony, transport
disruptions across London were a reminder that there were still
significant threats to a smooth run-in.
Severe delays hit three of the main rail links to the
Olympic Park on Monday morning and labour union RMT announced
industrial action by staff in some parts of the city's old and
often creaking transport system to coincide with the Games.
Problems on the underground Central and Jubilee Lines were
compounded by delays on a key overground link, and passengers
rolled their eyes in disbelief at announcements explaining the
reasons for their woes.
"This is going to be brilliant for the Olympics," said one
passenger on the crowded but at least functioning Northern Line,
to laughter from travellers packed into carriages like sardines.
Olympics minister Hugh Robertson admitted that transport in
London during the Games was a challenge, but added:
"Can I absolutely guarantee sitting here today that it will
be faultless? No, because this is a huge, huge city. Many
millions of people are going to work every day and to do other
things. Can I assure you that we think we've done everything
possible to make it work? Yes, I can."
(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin, Avril Ormsby, Michael
Holden and Sam Speed in London, Julien Pretot in Paris; writing
by Mike Collett-White, editing by Peter Millership)