Thursday, July 26, 2012
LONDON (AP) — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:
REJOINDER TO ROMNEY
"There's guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know if we are ready. Are we ready? Yes we are!" — London Mayor Boris Johnson to a raucous crowd in London's Hyde Park after the arrival of the Olympic flame.
—Rob Harris — Twitter http://twitter.com/robharris
The teamwork continues even after the German gymnasts leave the floor.
Several English-speaking reporters wanted to talk to Oksana Chusovitina, who is competing in her sixth Olympics at 37 — unheard of for a female gymnast. There was just one problem: Chusovitina, who is originally from Uzbekistan, doesn't speak English, and there were no translators available.
A TV researcher who speaks Russian initially offered to help, only to realize he was needed for something else on the other side of the room. Elisabeth Seitz then leaned over and said, "If you need translating, I can try to help." She did better than that, translating about five minutes' worth of questions for Chusovitina.
Chusovitina competed for the Unified Team at the 1992 Olympics, then her native Uzbekistan in Atlanta, Sydney and Athens. She moved to Germany in 2002, so her son, Alisher, could be treated there for leukemia. She has lived there ever since, and switched nationalities in 2006 to express her appreciation for her adopted country.
—Nancy Armour — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour
AP journalist and avid bicyclist Warren Levinson reports in from two wheels:
I am astonished at how much official support there is for bicycling in London, given how narrow the streets are. The "Boris Bikes" — London's popular bike-sharing program, named for its mayor — are just the beginning. There are bicyclists everywhere at all hours and of all levels, in numbers you can only imagine in New York.
That said, there is no way I would have attempted to ride here if I weren't used to city cycling.
One of my New York City rules: I don't tangle with buses. Here, they are impossible to avoid. You're moving along and gradually become aware of a double-deck whale, breathing quietly through its blowhole, just over your right shoulder. (Buses in London are much quieter than they are in New York.)
A newspaper, The Independent, ran a race to Olympic Park between a bicycle, a car, the Underground and a riverboat. The bike won by a big margin. So far, I am enjoying the ride.
—Warren Levinson — Twitter http://twitter.com/warrenlevinson
OPENING FROM AFAR
The U.S. Olympic women's soccer team hasn't attended an opening ceremony in 12 years. It just takes too much time and energy to fly to the main host city from the remote venues where footie is played.
So what to do? Gather in front of a television and dress as if you were there.
"We're going to feel the spirit," goalkeeper Hope Solo said. "Everyone's talking about dressing up in our opening ceremony outfits — and not shipping them home until the following day."
—Joseph White — Twitter http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
Roger Federer has been holding court, and he delivered up a secret: He can't play tennis "at all" with his left hand.
Other tidbits from the winner of 17 tennis majors at an entertaining news conference:
—He is not a huge autograph hunter.
—He is looking forward to chatting with other Olympians — "It doesn't matter if they are famous or not."
—And he is in two minds about being able to wear colored kit at Wimbledon, where the usual etiquette requiring that players wear white is relaxed for the Olympics.
"I feel a bit awkward playing in a red shirt out at Wimbledon," he said. "But I don't dislike it."
Federer, 31 next month, wouldn't rule out another Olympic appearance — it would be his fifth — at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. "There's definitely a chance," he said.
—John Leicester — Twitter http://twitter.com/johnleicester
CONFIDENT SOUTH AFRICA
If South Arican athletes don't perform at these Olympics, they can't blame the food or the accommodation. Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula has visited London's athletes village and pronounced it good.
"I have seen the village, have tasted part of their meal and they told me that it is better than Beijing," Mbalula said at a welcome reception for the national team. "I have seen where they sleep, they told me they are content."
Sports officials have set the team a goal of 12 medals — and Mbalula ended a characteristically fiery pep talk with: "Let's go to war!"
—Jill Lawless — Twitter http://twitter.com/JillLawless
FIT AT 40
There are always a handful of athletes at the Olympics trying to win one for the aged, and Chris Horner is "that guy" for the U.S. men's road cycling team.
Horner, who will turn 41 in October, gives off a grandfatherly vibe surrounded by 20-something teammates Tejay van Garderen, Taylor Phinney, Tyler Farrar and Timmy Duggan.
Horner turned professional in 1995, but failed to make the U.S. team for the next four Summer Olympics. He figured that London was his final shot, and was nearly overcome with emotion when USA Cycling announced he had made the five-man team for Saturday's road race.
"Your whole life, you're always trying to get on the Olympic team," Horner said from the team's training base in the Surrey countryside.
—David Skretta — Twitter http://twitter.com/APdaveskretta
NO STAR LINE AT SECURITY?
I'm standing in line with a bunch of media members waiting to get cleared through security when two men come hurrying in to the back of the line. Dressed in Serbia gear and clearly in a rush to get somewhere, they try to ask the security personnel to expedite the process for them.
Not happening. They have to stand in line like everyone else.
As I get through the screening, I turn to see who is there. It's Novak Djokvic, only one of the three best tennis players in the world. His watch sets off the alarm, but he rushes out before I have a chance to ask what in the heck he's doing there with us lowly regular people.
—Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://twitter.com/APkrawczynski
DOPING TEST OVER, FINALLY
Remember the problems two fasting Moroccans were having to comply with the urine test that's part of doping checks here? It took two and a half hours, but they've managed it.
The team coach had said earlier that the two chosen players — who are observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — had found it "more or less impossible" because they hadn't consumed anything since 2:30 a.m.
—Joseph White — Twitter http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
ALL ABOUT PHELPS
Michael Phelps is such an Olympic colossus that the US swim team press conference broke down this way:
A half hour of questions and answers with Phelps, then a half hour with the rest of the team.
Does this reinforce the idea that Phelps is somehow separate from his teammates?
Teammate Natalie Coughlin likes it this way.
"We used to do all the press conferences together and would just sit here daydreaming" while Phelps fielded all the questions.
—Warren Levinson — Twitter http://twitter.com/WarrenLevinson
TOO LATE TO SWITCH SPORTS?
American track star Lolo Jones hasn't been able to hurdle the heat so far. Tweet: "No air conditioners. It's HOT in the rooms. No need to practice. Just lay in ur bed and sweat. Where r the applications for Winter Olympics???"
—Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://twitter.com/APkrawczynski
SING ALONG WITH PAUL
Londoners have been careful not to leak too many secrets about Friday's opening ceremony, but some have slipped out anyway.
With thousands taking part in dress rehearsals being held at night, it's been difficult to keep all the juicy details under wraps. And while it's been impossible to see what's going on inside Olympic Stadium, there have been clues floating in the air all week.
"I've heard Paul McCartney do 'Hey Jude' twice," said a bartender on Euston St. "At least it sounded like him."
Tom Withers http://twitter.com/twithersAP
U.S. women's wrestling coach Terry Steiner is hopeful that the growth of the sport domestically will lead to the country's first gold medal.
Steiner said that in 2002, two years before women's wrestling made its debut at the Athens Games, just five American colleges offered women's wrestling. That number currently stands at 21, and Steiner said girls' wrestling is also the fastest-growing sport at the high school level in the U.S.
The Americans have a pair of two-time Olympians in Clarissa Chun at 48 kilograms and Ali Bernard at 72 kg. Both reached bronze medal matches before falling in Beijing and are considered legitimate medal contenders
"Our goals are very simple. We've got four athletes and we'd like to leave here with four medals. And I think we have the athletes that can perform and have performed at a high level," Steiner said.
—Luke Meredith — Twitter http://twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP
Roger Federer has an endorsement contract with Rolex. That doesn't mean he's on time.
The Swiss player, who returned to No. 1 in the world again after winning his seventh Wimbledon earlier this month, was to meet with media at 5:30 p.m. but at about that time it was announced he would be 30 minutes late. Federer, with 17 Grand Slams, won a gold medal in doubles in 2008 with fellow countryman Stan Wawrinki. He'll be back at Wimbledon to try to win gold in singles, and his chances improved when Spain's Rafael Nadal pulled out due to injury.
TALL AND SMALL
A tower of men's tennis will face, or rather peer down at, the tour's smallest player in first-round action at the Olympics.
No. 11 seed John Isner of the United States is matched against Olivier Rochus of Belgium in a draw that was announced Thursday at Wimbledon. Isner is 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 meters) tall, and his opponent is 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 meters) tall.
Last year, Isner defeated Rochus to win the title at Newport in the United States. The Association of Tennis Professionals described it as the "biggest-ever height differential" in a tour final.
The ATP biography for Rochus, whose career-high ranking was No. 24 in 2005, says his ambition as a child was "to be tall."
At 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 meters), Ivo Karlovic of Croatia is the tallest man on the tour.
Hundreds of Brazilian fans are taking over St. Mary Street in Cardiff, Wales, ahead of the team's opening match against Egypt in the men's football tournament. Making a lot of noise and dancing to loud music, the Brazilians are bringing some life to what normally would be a calm city center on a Thursday afternoon.
Smaller groups of Egyptian supporters were also on hand, peacefully engaging with the Brazilians ahead of the Group C match at the nearby Millennium Stadium.
The gathering of fans is one of the few signs of changes brought on by the Olympics to Cardiff, located some 150 miles (250 kilometers) from all the action in London.
—Tales Azzoni — Twitter http://twitter.com/tazzoni
WHEN IN LONDON ...
U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas joked after making the Olympic team she hoped to "catch an accent" when she arrived in London.
Douglas doesn't quite have the hang of it yet, but her teammates are picking it up quickly.
Aly Raisman put on a show for reporters shortly after the U.S. completed podium training on Thursday, putting the proper lilt on "absolutely brilliant" and "Introducing the gymnasts" (with the emphasis on the second syllable of gymnast).
How good was it? Even a member of the Olympic Broadcast System (a Brit) applauded.
—Will Graves — Twitter http://twitter.com/WillGravesAP
WELCOME TO NODNOL?
Call that a welcome? A sprawling shopping mall next to London's Olympic Park has been forced to alter signs greeting Arabic-speaking visitors, after a campaign group pointed out that the message was almost unreadable.
Westfield Stratford, which has more than 260 stores and is located right next to the main Olympic venues, has confirmed it is replacing banners put in place to welcome Olympic visitors after it was contacted by the Council for Arab-British understanding.
The council said signs that were supposed to say "Welcome to London" in Arabic were instead written backwards and did not have the letters joined up, leaving the message virtually indecipherable.
Chris Doyle, the council's director, says the banner has taken a simple message and "jumbled it up and separated the letters — what you got was a load of gibberish."
—David Stringer - Twitter http://twitter.com/david_stringer
The British Museum is a huge draw for tourists, and the medal display is very timely.
The exhibit features actual medals awarded, including one for the pentathlon in the 1873 Wenlock Olympian Games, and artist renderings of this year's medals.
—Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer
Nearly 2,000 Moroccan kids are benefitting from a decision by British rower Mohamed Sbihi not to fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in order to pursue his Olympic dream.
Sbihi, who is part of the men's eight at the London Games, felt he wouldn't be able to maintain his competitive edge if he abstained from food and drink from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, which began last Friday.
So, as a compromise, he is instead digging deep into his pocket and paying to feed 1,800 people via an English-based charity — Walou 4 Us — that works with kids in Morocco.
"It's written in the Quran that those unable to fast have to feed 60 people or fast for 30 days for every day they miss intentionally," Sbihi said.
"So, it worked out 1,800 people or 5 years' fasting. I'm very fortunate that I have funds to pay and make the donation. I made the donation about a month and a half ago."
—Steve Douglas — Twitter http://twitter.com/sdouglas80
EDITOR'S NOTE — "Eyes on London" shows you the Olympics through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across the 2012 Olympic city and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item, and get even more AP updates from the Games here: http://twitter.com/AP_Sports