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EYES ON LONDON: Goals, celebrity, diplomacy
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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:

The women's soccer has started and the goals are flying in. France is beating the United States 2-1 and England has taken a 1-0 lead over New Zealand.

-Mattias Karen - Twitter

LONDON - The Olympic athletes' parade is two days away, but the celebrity parade has already begun in London. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are among the stars expected at London's Victoria & Albert Museum on Wednesday night for a charity gala honoring boxing great Muhammad Ali. The 70-year-old boxer is expected to attend the Sports for Peace event, while other rumored guests include David Beckham. Tickets started at 2,500 pounds ($3,900) and will raise money for the educational Muhammad Ali Center and for research into Parkinson's disease.

-Jill Lawless - Twitter


U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler Ellis Coleman has become known as the "Flying Squirrel" for his unusual signature move of the same name. When faced with a deficit late in a match, Coleman will often do a standing flip over his opponent's head and grab his waist on the way down. The move has earned Coleman plenty of fame through YouTube clips of him using it at the 2011 Junior World Championships.

Instead of trying to move past the notoriety garnered for a trick move, Coleman has embracing the "Flying Squirrel" moniker so much that he even went out and bought a real flying squirrel to keep as a pet.

Coleman found the squirrel, which he named "Rocky," at a mall near the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. All told, Coleman figures Rocky has cost him about $500.
"I keep him in a cage. He just hops around," Coleman said. "He sleeps every day so it's pretty easy."

-Luke Meredith - Twitter

Nobody's talking about a thaw in relations between Iran and Israel, but it was interesting to see what the head of the Iranian Olympic Committee had to say when asked how his country's athletes would respond if the IOC calls a minute's silence in memory of the eleven Israelis killed at the Munich Games in 1972.

Bahram Afsharzadeh says his delegation would "respect" such a call

He also made clear there would be no question of Iranian teams boycotting events against Israelis, as has happened in the past.

Afsharzadeh's pledge regarding the memorial is unlikely to be put to the test as IOC chief Jacques Rogge has ruled out a commemoration at the opening ceremony. But the very fact that he spoke in such terms will not have gone unnoticed by Israeli officials.
Mood music matters, as diplomats like to say.

-Martin Benedyk - Twitter


Today is podium training for the men. Training on the competition floor might not sound like a big deal, considering gymnasts have the exact same equipment in the training gym. But the competition floor is on a raised podium - about 4 feet off the ground - and that changes the feel and response of the equipment.

The equipment is bouncier, for one thing. And just as there are different makes of shoes or swimsuits, there are different brands of gymnastics equipment and each brand has its own peculiarities.

Podium training gives gymnasts a chance to get used to all of that before the scoring starts for real.

-Nancy Armour - Twitter


Will Olympic stadiums forever be in the shadow of Beijing's Bird's Nest?

In the wake of that architectural marvel, some have called London's Olympic Stadium plain and uninspiring.

Not Louisa Gummer, though. The volunteer was gushing to a friend on the phone about how wonderful it looks.

"It never was going to be the Bird's Nest and that's what makes it so brilliant," Gummer said. "It's a legacy project that will be useful long after the Games are over."
Gummer has been inside, and she said she likes the more intimate feel.

"You can sit on one side and look across the way and see the faces of those on the other side," she said. "It's so intimate and it doesn't feel big until you're standing right in the middle of it."

-Jon Krawczynski -
No matter how much you've prepared, there are always questions at the last minute. Just two hours before today's U.S.-France women's soccer game in Glasgow, the venue managers are debating which national anthem should be played first.

-Joseph White - Twitter
AP's Jon Krawczynski reports from Olympic Park:
I'm sitting on a bench outside Olympic Stadium, and I'm not going anywhere. Macca is holding court.

I can't see Paul McCartney. I can only hear him. And that's the most important thing anyway, right?

As I wandered around the park to get the lay of the land, I heard some music coming from the stadium. It was "Hey, Jude," stopping and starting several times.

A sound check? Sure sounded like it. Could I get in? Security was having none of that.

A dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday night, so the chances of McCartney holding a sound check were real.

Alas, this isn't that.

A quick swap of emails with McCartney's agent, Stuart Bell, reveals that Sir Paul had been here on Tuesday but is in Liverpool on Wednesday attending a graduation ceremony.

The Beatles were long broken up by the time I came around in 1979, but instead of being raised on kids music, I got the Fab Four. My parents are the biggest Beatles fans I know, my father in particular. The chance to see McCartney put on a show here in London was something we talked about often leading up to this trip.

This was a close call. I can't imagine what it will be like when he hits the stage for real.

-Jon Krawczynski - Twitter

That guy next to you at the judo competition, the one surrounded by security? Could well be Russian President Vladimir Putin. Don't mess with him; he's not only well guarded, he's also a black belt in judo.

Putin has said he plans to come to London in a private capacity and watch the judo. He's often been filmed practicing and once recorded an instructional judo DVD.

Judo at the 2012 games starts Saturday.
Scottish soldiers are roaming Olympic Park in full camouflage gear, with an Army green beret that has a little puffy ball on the top.

The hats also have a dark green leafy attachment that looks like a stubby Christmas tree sprouting from the side.

The look doesn't quite strike fear into the hearts of men the way the blue face paint did for William Wallace back in the day, but I'm still not going to mess with them.

-Jon Krawczynski -


The five members of the U.S. men's road race team are staying this week near Box Hill, well away from the hustle and bustle of London, at a quaint hotel where they can step out the front door, hop on their bikes and train on the circuit that could well decide Saturday's race.

The loop for the road race goes past some of the iconic sights of London, such as Buckingham Palace, and will finish on the Mall - a dream come true for television cameras and local visitor bureaus. But Box Hill, in the countryside south of the city, is where fans will have the best view of the race, and where the first gold medal could be won or lost.

That's because riders will traverse the hill multiple times - nine for the men, three for the women - and that could ultimately shatter the main field and prevent the widely expected sprint finish.

There are a half dozen team buses parked outside the hotel, with all manner of equipment at the ready. The roads around Box Hill are popular with local cyclists, too, so for every toned Olympian with virtually no body fat, there's at least five more folks who have managed to squeeze their girth into spandex so they can take on the same course.

-David Skretta - Twitter

Open-water swimmers may have to contend with ducks and reeds as they race the in Hyde Park's Serpentine lake.

That's pretty quaint though when you think of previous games. There were jellyfish the size of dinner plates in Australia and swimming took place just outside the shark nets in Hong Kong.

Britain's Kerri-Anne Payne was the first athlete to try out the Serpentine course Wednesday, and was full of enthusiasm. "It was really nice to get in there," she said of her morning swim. "I had to fight with a couple of ducks though to get round the buoys."
And the reeds?

"I kept getting a little tangled in them, but I've overcome that now."

-Elena Becatoros - Twitter

Here's an angle worth looking at: Photographer Mark Duncan has just made the first AP Olympic image shot with a controllable overhead robotic camera. He did it at the Aquatics Center, where AP will be producing imagery shot with such cameras throughout the Olympic games - both underwater and above. See the photo here:

-Ted Anthony - Twitter


In the Netherlands, parts of the sky are being cordoned off for the Olympics.

Airspace above North Brabant province usually is used by Dutch F16 pilots as a training area, but authorities say the Top Guns are going to spread their wings elsewhere over the country and the North Sea to make way for London-bound Olympic flights carrying athletes or spectators.

-Mike Corder - Twitter:

Just over 48 hours to go, and there's a scramble to finish work at many of London's venues.

Miles of cables have been installed by news organizations and some have been inadvertently damaged in the rush by builders to get everything ready. At the hockey venue inside the Olympic Park, new fences were fitted for safety reasons - and they've damaged crucial wiring.

Worst-case scenario: Major cabling damage could theoretically close off an entire venue in terms of data transmission - whether text, photos or TV images.

Technicians are being sent back repeatedly to check that everything's OK - and they're worried. Wednesday is the last day anyone's officially allowed to wire things up and yet there's potential for damage for several more days.

-Stephen Moyes

Spotted at the Olympic Park McDonald's: a camera crew interviewing a cashier about the delicacies under the Golden Arches. Must be a slow news day.

Let the games begin, already!

-Jon Krawczynski -

A strike by airport immigration workers has been called off. Now, taxi drivers are postponing a protest.

The reason: "To avoid further inconvenience to Londoners; we don't want to make a bad situation worse," according to a statement by "Cabbies Against Boris" (a reference to London Mayor Boris Johnson.)

The drivers are angry at the Olympic Lanes which they say will cause chaos in an always-busy city. The lanes are there solely to allow "an elite few which seems to be mainly comprised of Corporate Sponsors to travel quickly at the expense of the majority of hardworking Londoners," the cabbies say.

-Corrin Grant - Twitter

The games begin in 48 hours, and London is still putting on the finishing touches.

Chainsaws were blaring at the equestrian venue in North Greenwich and an industrious Games staff member spent the morning walking around The O2 Arena (home of the gymnastics) with a roller dripping with purple paint, dabbing a little here, a little there.
No "Do Not Touch" signs, though.

-Will Graves - Twitter

Four years ago, the Chinese men's gymnastics team soared to seven gold medals in front of the home crowd in Beijing. It could be a much different result in London.

The team looked sloppy during podium training on Wednesday and lacked their usual swagger.

Teng Haibian, who won gold on pommel horse in Athens in 2004, struggled on every apparatus and is dealing with a left arm injury. He wore an ace bandage and had serious issues whenever going through a move that required upper body strength.
-Will Graves - Twitter


For three Summer Olympics, Adrian Croitoru competed as a middleweight in judo for Romania - placing as high as fifth in both the 1992 Barcelona Games and again in Atlanta in '96. That's why his new gig as coach of the Armenians is quite a change of pace - and still a little bit strange, too.

"Now, it's more difficult for me as a coach," Croitoru reflected as he arrived at Heathrow Airport early Wednesday with several athletes.

"I'm Romanian. I coach the Armenians," the 41-year-old said with a smile as everybody's bags were piled on one sled-like cart before they made their way off.

-Janie McCauley - Twitter:

The London Olympics has been dubbed the social media games, and it's already living up to the moniker.

A spokeswoman for Twitter says there were more tweets about the Olympics on a single day last week than there were during the entire Beijing Games. The number of daily tweets about the London Games has been on par with the numbers during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and the opening ceremony is coming up on Friday night.

-Jay Cohen - Twitter

The women's beach volleyball uniforms have gone politically correct this year, with shorts and sleeved tops replacing the bikinis.

The move was made to respect the cultural beliefs of players from different countries and updates the dress code that has been in effect since the sport became a medal event in 1996.

The American women said they'll wear more clothing in London if it's cold during their night matches, but bikinis would've been their first choice because that's what they're used to wearing. Still, they unanimously applauded the relaxed dress code.

"We want women of all different religions to be able to play our sport," said Jennifer Kessy, "and to not be able to play because of the gear is not OK."

-Jenna Fryer - Twitter
The latest tempting bet: The color of the queen's hat at Friday's opening ceremony.

The shortest odds - at 3 to 1 - are on blue. Or will she go for the patriotic number and have the red, white and blue of the Union Jack? That fetches an eye-catching 50-1 at one bookmakers.

-Ian Phillips - Twitter

There will be live music acts at more than 650 sporting events, organizers say, but they're refusing to say who and where. Among the surprise bands: Pet Shop Boys, Scissor Sisters, Rita Ora, Sub Focus, and Rizzle Kicks.
-Maria Sanminiatelli - Twitter

Struggling to understand the rules of an obscure sport? Too much going on all at once at track and field? London organizers are selling small ear devices that will walk you through what's happening out there. Cost: 10 pounds ($15)
-Maria Sanminiatelli - Twitter

The American beach volleyball players walked into their news conference Wednesday lean, fit and the center of attention. But when the bulk of the questions were lobbed at the women players, a reporter gamely asked the men if they felt overlooked.

"I'm perfectly OK with it. They are way prettier," said reigning gold medalist Phil Dalhausser, recognized most for his 6-foot-9 frame and bald head.

-Jenna Fryer - Twitter

Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are suddenly rivals.

Love plays for Team USA while the injured Rubio is cheering on his native Spain in the Olympics. Rubio tweeted before the two teams played an exhibition game on Tuesday night in Barcelona, "(at)kevinlove are you ready to lose to Spain tonight?"

Then the Americans put a 100-78 thumping on the Spaniards and Love tweeted him a simple and stinging retort. "How'd that work out for you, buddy?"

-Jon Krawczynski -

Beach volleyball appears to be the trendy sport right now, with London abuzz that Prince Harry apparently has tickets to some matches.

Count the young American duo of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross among those stoked about his possible presence. Kessy pumped her fist in excitement when told Harry is rumored to be going to the venue.

"We've been tweeting," Ross said, laughing.

"We've been putting his name out there for some time, but no contact yet," Kessy chimed in.

Both women said they'd be in favor of any members of the royal family attending, and they'd welcome a photo opportunity.

Added Ross: "Harry or Kate, especially."

-Jenna Fryer - Twitter

Overnight some new furniture has arrived In the Olympic Park. High chairs with pink seats have popped up along the walking routes. They look exactly like one used by lifeguards and even have covers to protect the occupant from the sun or rain. See a photo here:

-Fergus Bell - Twitter


AP's Eddie Pells checks in from a former Olympic city:

Hello from the Olympic City. Wait, did I get on the wrong flight? I'm in Barcelona.

OK, it's a small vacation before heading to London for the real action, but it's hard not to think "Olympics" here in what has arguably become Spain's hottest tourist spot over the past 20 years, since the Olympics changed the way that both the world views Barcelona and Barcelona views the world.

As one tour guide put it to me: Before the Olympics, Barcelona used to live with its back to the water; after the Olympics, it faces the water. Likewise, before the Olympics, Barcelona lived with its back to the world, and since the 1992 Games, the city welcomes the world.

All this becomes clear while touring the famous Sagrada Familia - the still-unfinished church designed by the iconic architect, Antonio Gaudi - or by taking a stroll along the Plajita de la Barceloneta, which, pre-1992, was underused waterfront that was redesigned and turned into a beach in anticipation of the Olympics.

Spain, as we all know, is suffering these days. A look at the latest headlines tells us about an unemployment rate nearing 25 percent and a growing number of state-like regions, including Catalonia, where Barcelona is the capital, that can't afford to maintain all the infrastructure that has sprung up over the last two decades or so.

Sad news. And these days, there are big questions as to whether Barcelona can afford to keep its arms open to the world and remain the city it grew into when the Olympics came to town.

-Eddie Pells - Twitter

London's supremely helpful Olympics staff and volunteers are taking nothing for granted. Everyone in the sprawling media center knows the way to their office by now - but this man shows no sign he's going away any time soon, despite the heat. See the photo here:

-Neil Neusten - Twitter

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is about to scale new heights.

Royal officials say the queen will whiz to the top of London's Orbit tower during a visit to the Olympic Park on Saturday.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will take in the panoramic views from atop the 115-meter (380-foot) landmark. The tower - a ruby red mass of twisting steel that some have likened to a crushed rollercoaster - has divided opinion: some say bold, others eyesore. The queen will be accompanied by her daughter Princess Anne - but not by her oldest son Prince Charles, a vocal opponent of edgy modern architecture.

The royals also are due to meet competitors and catering staff at the athletes' village.

-Jill Lawless - Twitter

What's Britain's star gymnast Louis Smith doing now that he's sworn off Twitter? Shaving his head, apparently.

Smith, who's become a crossover star since winning Britain's first Olympic medal in 80 years in Beijing, showed up for Wednesday's podium training freshly shorn, sporting a military-style flat top. Looks like he's cleaned up the facial hair, too.

Smith said Monday night that he's keeping away from Twitter for the rest of the games.

-Nancy Armour - Twitter

There are always things happening in the athletes' village, but unless you have the correct accreditation you have no chance of seeing it.

Shoppers at the mall next door, though, have found a little loophole.

One of the entrances is elevated and faces out over the village. This means a constant crowd of shoppers and loiterers standing around in the prime position for a sight of the goings on.

-Fergus Bell - Twitter

Widows of two Israeli Olympians killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics hope silence will speak volumes at Friday's opening ceremony.

Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano are asking spectators to stand and hold a minute of silence when International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge rises to speak at Friday's ceremony. They say they want to show the IOC it was wrong to deny the athletes a spot on the program.

"They were killed at an Olympic venue. They should be honored there," said Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, who died in the Munich attack.

They have gathered more than 100,000 signatures for the moment of silence and count President Barack Obama among their supporters.

The IOC has decided against holding a moment of silence during London's opening ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian gunmen that killed 11 Israeli team members. Israeli and German government officials and the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee have urged the IOC to hold such an observance.

-Danica Kirka - Twitter

Lots of people are coming to London from overseas, and it now looks like they're going to have fewer problems getting in.

A British union has just called off a strike planned for Thursday by immigration staff at London's Heathrow Airport. Authorities had feared a walkout over pay and job losses would throw the Olympics into turmoil. Authorities this week urged the workers to consider the damage such action would inflict on Britain's image with the world watching.

-Raphael Satter - Twitter

When it comes to the Olympics, geography can be politics.

Georgia's National Olympic Committee is fuming over two Russian athletes, born in what was then the Soviet Union's republic of Georgia, describing their place of birth as breakaway republics that Georgia and the international community do not recognize.
"Politics should not meddle in sports," says Georgiy Asanidze, a member of Georgia's Olympic Committee.

The games' official website lists Russian wrestler Besik Kudukhov's place of birth as "South Ossetia, Russia." The place of birth of another wrestler Denis Tsargush, born in the town of Gudauta, is also listed as Russia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia threw off most Georgian control in separatist wars in the 1990s, but Georgian authorities retained control of swaths of South Ossetia and a small piece of Abkhazia until the 2008 war with Russia. Afterward, Russia recognized their independence, as did Nicaragua, Venezuela and a handful of tiny Pacific nations.

-Misha Dzhindzikhashvili, Batumi, Georgia

Will he? Won't he? British newspapers have buzzed with speculation that Muhammad Ali may have a role in London's Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday.

The 1960 heavyweight boxing gold medalist and former world champion is in town this week, but looks far too frail to play a significant part in director Danny Boyle's spectacular on Friday night.

At an award ceremony on Tuesday, Ali was helped onto stage and sat largely motionless. Parkinson's disease has stolen the 70-year-old's once-world-beating strength and quick reflexes and frozen his beautiful face into a mask. Ali did not speak at the ceremony.

Among those who hope Ali will make an appearance, however brief, at the Opening Ceremony is Tyrone Monaghan. His father, Paddy, a bare-knuckle boxer, struck up a long friendship with Ali when both were younger. On visits to Britain, Ali regularly would drop by the Monaghans' house - to drink tea, chat and even spar with Tyrone.

"There are so many great things about him," Tyrone says of Ali. "You can't sum it up in one sentence."

-John Leicester - Twitter

At least he'll be right at home with fire.

Among Wednesday's Olympic torch carriers through the streets of London: Rupert Grint, who played Harry Potter's faithful friend Ron Weasley in the Potter movies.

Grint, 23, will be carrying the torch briefly at Middlesex University shortly after lunch.

-Danica Kirka - Twitter

Wednesday marks the first day that London's usually aggressive drivers have to respect the unpopular "Games Lanes" - known informally as Zil lanes, after the Russian limos - or face a stiff fine.

There were fears of massive tie-ups as two-lane motorways were effectively cut in half to make way for the "Olympic family" vehicles allowed to use the special lanes, so many commuters seem to have switched to public transport to avoid the hassle.

On the A40 highway into central London, rush hour traffic was lighter than usual, and the Zil lane was completely empty save for a few black BMWs and a couple of truck drivers who didn't seem to have got the message.

As the road spilled onto Marylebone Road near Madame Tussauds wax museum, a large electronic sign told motorists they were free to use the Games Lanes at that point, but few ventured over the imposing double-width, solid line painted on the roadway for the Olympics period - despite the reassurances, they were apparently afraid that London's ubiquitous traffic cameras would cause them to be fined.

Eventually, as traffic slowed and a second sign said all lanes were open, drivers crossed the line and normal traffic patterns resumed.

-Greg Katz - Twitter
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: