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EYES ON LONDON: Crowd getting fired up as London Olympics set to open
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:
From AP's Fergus Bell in place and awaiting the opening ceremony:
"A Mexican wave just started. The crowd are getting fired up. The scene is set on the stage in front of me depicting a rural idyll. There are tractors and a water wheel. There is a small cottage in the middle with two smoking chimneys. I have seen similar scenes in the English countryside but this looks a little cleaner, a little more fairytale.
Fergus Bell Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb
AP's Cassandra Vinograd reports from the streets well, the railway tracks of London:
This reporter was in a bit of a panic left work late and wondered how she would ever get through the crowds to board a train to Olympic Park.
But tubes were not crowded and St. Pancras International, where you catch the high speed Javelin train, is a breeze. There were no lines whatsoever to get on the Javelin despite crowd-flow measures (barricades, like what airports use for long check-in lines). The line spaces were all empty.
The only glitch was a few travelers grumbling over a broken ticket machine, leaving only one working dispenser on the Javelin platform.
But no worries in the end. With so few jostling for space, everyone got a ticket in time.
Cassandra Vinograd Twitter http://twitter.com/cassvinograd
Egypt's Olympic team won't be wearing knockoffs after all at the London Games.
Nike announced Friday it was donating its gear to the Egyptian athletes. This after the country's committee chairman said they'd turned to a Chinese distributor because the real thing was just too expensive.
Not so during the opening ceremony, though. Nike's shipment isn't due to arrive in London until Saturday.
Maria Sanminiatelli Twitter http://twitter.com/SanMin68
The widow of Alexander Litvinenko, the exiled former Russian agent who died from a mysterious case of radiation poisoning, is calling on Londoners to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to the Olympics.
Litvinenko issued a statement shortly before his 2006 death, accusing Putin of ordering him to be poisoned. He had been living in London since fleeing Russia in 2000. In a book written in exile, he accused Russia's main security agency, for which he once worked, of staging the 1999 apartment building bombings that were blamed on Chechen rebels and used as a justification for starting the second Chechen war.
British-Russian relations suffered a serious setback in 2007 after Russia refused to extradite the man that Britain named as the main suspect in Litvinenko's death.
Marina Litvinenko on Friday issued a statement saying "Mr. Putin's agents killed my husband" and called on Londoners wo wear white ribbons, the emblem of the Russian opposition, to proest Putin's visit Aug. 2 that is to include watching the judo.
Jim Heintz Twitter http://twitter.com/jeheintz
WHERE TO WATCH?
AP's Jenna Fryer reports from the streets of London:
Is there no such thing as a sports bar here?
Looking for a pub where I can hang with the locals and watch the opening ceremony is proving to be more challenging than I expected.
Since arriving, I've noticed that not that many pubs have televisions, so I've had to ask around for recommendations for the ceremonies. The first two I called one of which was the favorite watering hole of the late Amy Winehouse said they had no plans to show the ceremonies. "Tonight's just a regular pub night," I was told.
It seemed strange to see bars without TV's, but to not have such a big event blaring from every television in the country tonight is just bizarre.
Jenna Fryer Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer
PREPPED FOR HISTORY
Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius has arrived in London for his historic debut at the Olympics and says he's feeling "a mixture of pride, happiness and anticipation" at the end of his long journey to compete at the highest level in able-bodied competition.
Pistorius made the short flight across from his training camp in northern Italy and says he's "really excited" to attend the opening ceremony.
The South African has been battling for four years to reach the 2012 games. He was cleared to compete against able-bodied competitors on his carbon fiber blades in 2008, ran two qualifying times for London in the last 12 months, but missed out on the crucial third under his country's strict qualifying criteria.
But the selectors had a last-minute change of heart weeks before the games and picked him for the individual 400 meters as well as the 4x400 relay.
In an email to the AP, Pistorius says: "This feels like a long time coming and I am ready! This is going to be, I hope, an incredible few weeks of my life."
His first run at the Olympics will be in the 400 heats on Aug. 4. It'll be history.
Gerald Imray Twitter http://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP
It sounds almost as exhausting as the sport.
Britain's foreign policy chief William Hague is carrying out a frantic round of Olympic diplomacy, greeting foreign dignitaries arriving for the Summer Games and taking a chance to press them over trade, the Middle East and the violence in Syria.
Already, Hague has met with the prime ministers of Haiti, Lebanon, Kosovo, Panama's president and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In the coming days he has talks scheduled with VIPs from Bangladesh, India, Singapore and New Zealand.
David Stringer - Twitter http://twitter.com/david_stringer
The British men's volleyball team is playing in its first-ever Olympics. But truth be told, if the men hadn't earned an automatic berth as the host nation, they likely wouldn't be there.
The team is currently ranked 92nd in the world, and admittedly are a long shot for the gold. "Everybody sees us as the little boys of the volleyball competition. I hope we surprise some people," coach Harry Brokking says.
Anne Peterson Twitter http://twitter.com/anniempeterson
Britain's women's footballers say they will wear their opening ceremony uniforms even though they'll be about 155 miles (250 kilometers) away in Wales.
But they'll have to draw the curtains at least until late at night.
They have a special room to watch the ceremony on television but they'll not be allowed to be seen in their uniforms until the British team is introduced for its parade at about 11 p.m. local time.
Coach Hope Powell says "the girls really just want to embrace it and be part of it" but admits: "It will be odd."
Tales Azzoni Twitter http://twitter.com/tazzoni
SUDAN DENIES ASYLUM REPORT
Here's a reaction just in from the Sudanese Embassy, denying reports that one of its Olympic runners has applied for asylum in the U.K.
"We herewith categorically refute allegations ... that a Sudanese member of those who qualified for the Olympic competition and have arrived in London is either missing (or) sought political asylum."
The male Olympian reportedly showed up Tuesday night at a police station near the northern English city of Leeds.
RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE
Draped in a British flag, 35-year-old Greg Kemp struck a pose below the Orbit, just outside Olympic Stadium shortly after entering the stadium.
The London native can't help but reflect on what his city has been through to get to this point.
"I remember winning the bid and the next day the bombings," Kemp says. "And from there to standing here and it's actually done, it's pretty spectacular.
"It's the journey of a city, isn't it? In 10 years' time, this is the history of London. And to make it to here, it's the center of the universe in my opinion and it's the greatest city in the world."
Jon Krawczynski Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski
FOOD WITH NO NAME
Food choices are simple at the ExCel arena, the giant convention center hosting seven Olympic disciplines. Because McDonald's has exclusive rights to sell branded products, the dozen concessions at the venue are prohibited from using a specific name.
So, here's what's on offer on large signs:
"Italian" or "Chinese."
"Baked Potato" which, by the way, is often called a "jacket potato" in these parts.
Stephen Wade Twitter http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP
CAGE FIGHTERS ... AND DOGS?
Timmy Duggan tried to come up with a way of describing what it's like to be a cyclist during a marquee event, and he left the rest of the American team in stitches.
"You have to have the endurance of a Siberian Husky for the five minutes of the race that truly matters," the first-time Olympian opined, "and it's the strength of an ultimate cage fighter, with fighter-pilot reactions, which is a pretty cool sport, when you think about it."
Duggan certainly won't be making any friends with mixed martial artists, though.
"We're pushing ourselves much harder than you even can in something like cage fighting," Duggan said. "We're going so hard that you can't stand up anymore. We just keep killing ourselves."
For the record, Duggan doesn't own a Siberian Husky, though he admitted that "I've read a lot of books about dog racing." And as for fighting, well ...
"I wouldn't take my chances," he said. "That's why I'm a bike racer."
Dave Skretta http://www.twitter.com/APdaveskretta
You get the sense that LeBron James doesn't want to hear another word about it.
"Who's better 1992 or 2012?" That's been a talking point for weeks, the comparison between the 1992 Dream Team that went to Barcelona and this year's Olympic team.
"It's never going to happen," James said Friday of a hypothetical game between the two teams. "It doesn't matter how much conversation that we have about this team and the '92 Dream Team. It's never going to be played. Father Time is not going to allow that to happen. So it doesn't even matter."
That wasn't his way of downplaying expectations about what to expect from the U.S. squad in London.
Quite the contrary.
James, who won the NBA MVP award, the NBA Finals MVP award and led the Miami Heat to the title this past season, is fully expecting to add Olympic gold to his unbelievable year.
"I know one thing," James said. "I know we have a great team. And if we play as a team, like we're capable of doing, we can be one of the best teams ever assembled.
Tim Reynolds Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds
IT'S CALLED RACE WALKING
Of all the sports to watch at the Olympics, race walking is probably not No. 1 on many people's lists. But three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant can't wait to check it out.
The Oklahoma Thunder star singled out the event Friday when asked what he plans to watch during his free time in London. That's when he's not trying to help Team USA win a second straight gold medal.
Mind you, he didn't get the name of the sport quite right.
"I want to watch some speed walking," he said, using the incorrect term for the event. "I didn't even know that was an Olympic sport."
Peter Wilson Twitter http://twitter.com/peterrwilson
Update the roster at Wimbledon for Olympic tennis.
Laura Robson of Britain will play singles at the Olympics, replacing Petra Martic of Croatia after she pulled out because of injury.
Robson, a hometown fan favorite who is also playing doubles, will face Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in the first round. Robson won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008, and expectations have been high ever since. But she has won only one of her five matches in four main draw appearances.
The last British woman to win the Wimbledon titles was Virginia Wade in 1977.
Chris Lehourites Twitter http://twitter.com/chrislehourites
AT OLYMPIC STADIUM
Olympic workers, concessionaires and opening ceremony participants are hustling around Olympic Stadium trying to put the final pieces in place for Friday night's opening ceremony.
Drinks are being transported, dance routines practiced and security workers are taking pains to keep passers by from entering the stadium while final preparations continue.
I did catch a quick glimpse before being turned away, seeing a stage with some sort of cottage as the centerpiece. Your guess is as good as mine.
Jon Krawczynski Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski
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