By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
LONDON - Two years ago, roving groups of demonstrators marched through the heart of Vancouver, splashing paint and breaking department store windows in protest of the giant corporations that finance the Olympic Games.
So well organized, they established a medical unit on the edge of town to treat protest-related injuries.
In Beijing, activists protesting Chinese rule of Tibet played cat and mouse with angry Chinese police in 2008, while two elderly women were sentenced to terms in re-education camps for requesting permission to demonstrate.
Yet in Britain, in the year of the Occupy movement no less, the few demonstrations targeting the Olympics have been largely drowned out by a surge in national pride and unprecedented British athletic success.
Like pre-Games worries about terrorism, venue security and transportation, concerns that protesters would descend on the city en masse never really tested local authorities.
Britain Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that the security operation had worked so smoothly that he planned to issue a commemorative coin to British troops - called in at the last minute to fill gaping holes in the private security force - and police for their work across the Olympic venues and the city.
"The challenges were immense," Cameron said.
A year after riots ravaged London, the most potentially damaging act, a planned 24-hour strike by immigration agents at Heathrow Airport before the opening ceremony, was averted.
In perhaps the most confrontational Olympic-related demonstration, 180 cyclists were briefly detained on the night of the opening ceremony when the group crossed into security zones near Olympic Park. The very next day, a parade of up to 500 demonstrators marched peacefully in east London, near Olympic Park, to vent their opposition to what they described as a "corporate takeover" of the Games and "repressive" security measures taken to protect the global sporting spectacle. No one was arrested.
"It was very peaceful, and that makes it probably very boring for the media to cover," Counter Olympics Network spokesman Julian Cheyne said. "We've never advocated violence or bad behavior of any kind."
Indeed, even subsequent demonstrations - one staged by four topless women near the Tower Bridge on behalf of the Ukranian feminist group Femin - were largely peaceful and involved little disruption.
"Our position on protest is clear," London's Metropolitan Police Service said in a written statement. "People have the right to protest, and it is an incredibly important part of our democracy. We want anyone who wants to protest to come and speak to us so we can work together to ensure that their point can be made."
Cheyne and his group have made clear their opposition to the Games starting long before last month's opening ceremony. Their grievances include claims that the British government has overstated the potential economic benefit to be generated from the Games in tourism and the redevelopment of the city's blighted east side to local traffic restrictions that prohibit Londoners from using designated street lanes that whisk Olympic officials and journalists to their destinations across the city.
But even Cheyne concedes that the issues his group has worked to address might have to wait until the Olympic fever that has gripped much of Britain begins to ebb.
"There is a euphoria out there for the Games," Cheyne said. "The British team has been very successful, and that's good. So the argument is suspended for the moment. But it will start up again and then we will look and see whether they have made good on such promises as inspiring a generation (to take up sports) and the tourism benefit."
The surge in goodwill , Cameron said, did not necessarily indicate that the country had "changed massively" in the year after the riots.
Rather, the prime minister said, the Olympics put on display "the best things about our country."