LONDON -- It finally feels like the Olympics.
I know, probably an odd thing to say given that Monday brought Day 4 of competition, and we've already seen such indelible highlights as the Danny Boyle-produced Opening Ceremonies (pitch-perfect, even if Sir Paul McCartney's singing was not), a fourth-place finish for Michael Phelps (who knew a medal ceremony sans Phelps was even possible?), and Aly Raisman's superb performance to earn a spot in the women's gymnastics all-around (the yin to world champ Jordyn Wieber's devastated yang).
We are five hours ahead here. Perhaps my mind has somehow rebelled by falling four days behind.
But bear with me while I offer a more plausible explanation. When I arrived here a week ago among our Globe/Boston.com contingent, Olympic Park did not look ready for its closeup. White tarpaulins dotted the premises of the Games's central social location and most of its events, and the exposed infrastructure looked like some combination of scaffolding and adult Tinkertoys. If not for the bright pink signs, adorned with a font only Dan Gilbert could love, pointing toward venues and places to unburden yourself of your money, the whole thing would have had the bleached charmlessness of a hospital hallway.
It did not look like an inviting and able host for some of the greatest athletes in the world. It looked like it was deliberately constructed as if a constant reminder that the party wasn't going to last. While walking through the historic streets of sophisticated London is an invigorating experience accompanied by an awestruck appreciation for good fortune and an unshakable awareness of my utter lack of worldliness, once I returned to Olympic Park, I had one thought: I wish this were in Vancouver.
But upon an afternoon visit to Olympic Park Monday, I received a pleasant reminder not to judge, well, if not a book by its cover, then a venue by its exoskeleton. With the turn into the first full week of competition, the place had come to life. I suppose that is not a surprise -- the Opening Ceremonies showed us what was possible on Friday -- but it was reassuring to see it in full bloom.
The unusually cooperative sun, apparently also visiting the city for Olympics, provided bright skies all around as visitors and fans wearing the colors of their favored nation roamed around the park, sitting in the grass (it really is a park in that sense) with a beverage in hand and watching an event on a television screen said to be the size of three double-decker buses plunked on a stage in the River Lea.
The tarps and tents, which housed food stands and gift shops, were only an eyesore if you thought to look for them. It was the people you noticed, families, athletes, celebrities, and purple-clad workers, all from different backgrounds, and all with one thing in common. They were smiling.
OK, the crew in Coke t-shirts walking around and singing like they hoped Ryan Seacrest might notice them were a little annoying. I'd like to see them attempt their routine at, say, a New York Summer Games. But this is London, and here the mood, just like the sky, has become remarkably sunny.