By Mike Rowbottom in The Mall in London

Mark Cavendish_28_JulyJuly 28 - Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson said here today after watching Britain's world champion cyclist Mark Cavendish (pictured, on right) fail to earn a medal in the Olympic men's road race that there was a danger of home medal predictions becoming unrealistically inflated.

"I want us to win as many golds as possible so what happened today was disappointing," said Robertson, after watching the finale of the race with other guests including the London 2012 chairman Seb Coe and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Besides Cavendish failing to live up to his tag as favourite, Hannah Miley was blown away in the 400 metres individual medley at the Aquatics Centre as she finished only fifth in a race won by China's Ye Shiwen in a world record in 4min 28.43sec.

It meant Britain still have to register on the medals table, which at the end of the first day was led, perhaps inevitably, by China, who won a total of four gold medals, including the first one of London 2012 thanks to Siling Yi in the shooting

"People never seem to understand how tough this is going to be," said Robertson.

"There has been talk of Britain getting 70 to 90 medals.

"I woke up on New Year's Day to read that Britain were going to win 80 medals in London.

"I never, ever thought that was possible."

Referring to the recent Tour de France, won by Bradley Wiggins, Robertson added: "These guys have just finished racing what is probably the most gruelling competition known in sport.

"It's very, very tough to come out here and win a medal after that."

Hugh Robertson_28_JulySport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson has warned against expecting too many British medals

Britain won a total of 47 medals in Beijing, consisting of 19 gold, 13 silver, 15 bronze, finishing fourth behind China, the United States and Russia, with the latter totalling 73 medals.

Robertson added that indications were the road race had been watched by more than a million people along its route through Surrey and central London.

"The International Cycling Union were saying after the Tour de France that there was a very good chance this road race would be the first event of its kind to be watched by more than a million spectators," he said.

"Judging by what the turnout seems to have been today, one million would not be a completely outrageous estimate.

"I am particularly disappointed for Cavendish, because he played an absolute blinder throughout the Tour de France to get Wiggins over the line first, and I think we all hoped the reward would be the gold here.

"But I think the Games will survive this," he added with a grin.

"You can sense the atmosphere of excitement out on the streets today.

"That atmosphere is not going to be flattened or impacted by something like this.

"All the people in the streets tell you what the IOC (International Olympic Committee) President, Jacques Rogge, alluded to the other day: this is a country that loves its sport."

Miliband, en route for the medal ceremony, commented: "It's obviously disappointing, but we have a talented team and there will be other opportunities throughout the Olympics to win medals.

"Mark Cavendish is a fantastic cyclist, and it's disappointing for him not to win a medal.

"But you win some, you lose some."

When Robertson was asked if he had a view about the tweet sent the previous evening by the Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, Aidan Burley, describing the Opening Ceremony as "leftie multicultural crap", he responded: "He's wrong.

Overhead shot_28_JulyThe Olympic Games Opening Ceremony has come in for criticism

"He's entitled to his opinion, but he knows Number 10 [Downing Street] and I think he is wrong.

"I think the Opening Ceremony was a spectacular for the Facebook generation.

"All the young people who use social media absolutely got it, I believe."

Coe said the Opening Ceremony had not involved a conscious effort to cover the whole of British history.

"It wasn't saying 'We will run through it decade by decade'," he pointed out.

"It was picking out important chunks of that history.

"We know the Industrial Revolution changed our country, and indeed the rest of the world.

"We tried to carry that through by showing what we are as a nation – a very modern, multi-cultural society."

Asked to comment on the fact that the winner of the road race, Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, had served a two-year doping ban, Coe – a long-time anti-doping hardliner – commented waspishly: "He's entitled to compete, and that's it."

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