By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - London 2012 Olympics head Sebastian Coe said he was "shocked" when he saw the Olympic stadium full to capacity on the opening morning of athletics, even though he was well aware that all 80,00 tickets had been sold.
The noise generated by the fans attending the morning sessions, which do not feature any medals, has been in sharp contrast to many other Games and has drawn widespread praise.
"We are a track and field nation and I knew nobody wanted to sit that dance out," Coe told a news conference at the stadium ahead of the final night's track action on Saturday.
"I'd seen all the ticket applications so of course we knew it was sold out. So we knew they were coming - but I think we were still quite shocked when we saw them all in there in the first morning."
Coe said he rated "the extraordinary atmosphere in that stadium on the first morning" as his "third highlight" of the Games.
"My best by a distance was Rudisha, Bolt was good, this guy was magnificent," he said of David Rudisha's 1:40.91 stunning world record to win the 800 metres.
Nijel Amos, the 18-year-old Botswanan who took silver in what was once Coe's world record time of 1:41.73, also impressed in a race where seven of the eight finalists produced personal bests.
"It's a good time - I know - and it did take me 15 years to manage it," he said.
"Clearly he's an extraordinary talent - but it also signifies something collective about the event - it moved on that night.
"Since the early 90s, there have always been very fast 800m runners but the other night there were lots of them in the same race, a real strength in depth.
"It's had one or two supreme performers, now you have some young and talented runners, which will help David. He's not going to be a lone wolf."
Coe said the whole athletics programme had been a success and "an extraordinary opportunity to show our sport, my sport, in the best possible light.
"We've had full venues in every session, extraordinary numbers on the road courses for the marathon and walks.
"The legacy is so many young people seeing athletics as an exciting an competitive sport."
IAAF head Lamine Diack was also a happy man.
"A massive stadium full, watching exceptional athletes delivering extraordinary performances is exactly what we wanted to inspire young people," he said.
Coe also said the public response had vindicated LOCOG and the IAAF's decision to fight to keep the running track in the stadium despite widespread objections as soccer clubs were touted to be new tenants.
"The conversations of a year ago have been put into perspective," he said.
"Athletics in the stadium was a commitment we were never going to break and I'm grateful to Mr Diack and the IAAF for helping secure that.
"The red carpet has been laid out domestically and internationally and it's now up to us to build on that."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)