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EYES ON LONDON: Big Ben leads nationwide chorus, huge venue, marching in the rain?
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:
AP's Stephen Wade reports from the Olympic venues:
Arrive early. Be patient. Wear comfortable shoes.
That's my advice for anyone coming to the ExCel arena to watch one of seven events table tennis, weightlifting, judo, taekwondo, boxing, wrestling and fencing. The venue's cavernous. I counted taking about 1,000 steps walking from one end to the other. About right. The main "boulevard" runs past dozens of exhibitions halls. Must be 600-700 meters long (2,000 feet).
I mean, it dwarfs the venues in Beijing. That's saying something.
Stephen Wade Twitter http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP
AP's Cassandra Vinograd and Jill Lawless have been reporting on the runup to the opening ceremony. Here's an excerpt from their dispatch Friday morning:
"Deep bongs and pearly tones: Led by Big Ben, bells across Britain rang out in joyous cacophony Friday to mark the official opening day of the London Olympics. At precisely 8:12 a.m., 12 hours before what is expected to be a spectacular Olympic opening ceremony, the bells heralded a day of celebration that has been years in the making. Big Ben the famous bell inside Parliament's clock tower bonged 40 times over three minutes to ring in the games. It was joined across the country by bells and horns in churches, ships, boats, trucks and cars 12 hours before the symbolic time of 2012 British Summer Time 8:12 p.m."
Cassandra Vinograd and Jill Lawless Twitter http://twitter.com/cassvinograd and http://twitter.com/jilllawless
LAST WORKOUT EVER?
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps just tweeted: "Last workout ever....(hashtag)1day no more garbage yardage"
The 14 time Olympic gold medal winner has always said that he'll be hanging up his trunks after the 2012 Games. He also thanked his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, in the tweet before signing off, "now let's have some fun this week!!"
Phelps' first event is the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday.
Fergus Bell Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb
A Turkish referee has been found dead in his London hotel room after suffering what appears to have been a heart attack.
Garip Erkuyumcu, 73, was a member of the International Boxing Association's refereeing and judging commission. He was in London to assist referees at the Olympics.
Erkuyumcu's body was discovered by a colleague and will be flown to Turkey next week.
London organizers want the 2012 Summer Olympics to be public transport games ... including, if they want, for athletes.
Netherlands Olympian Yao Jie is staying in the Olympic Village in east London but her sport, badminton, is in Wembley Arena in northwest London (I once saw James Brown play there; great show).
She said the trip took her 2 hours on an Olympic bus on Wednesday. So she switched Thursday to public transport and rode back from Wembley first on the Tube followed by the high-speed Javelin train to the Olympic Park, joining the rest of us plebs. Yao was impressed.
"It's so quick!" she exclaimed as the Javelin pulled in to Stratford, home to Olympic Park. So quick, in fact, that I got her photo on the train and tweeted it but didn't learn much else about her. Her official bio says she reached the last 16 in singles at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
John Leicester Twitter http://twitter.com/johnleicester
Sheila Whysall doesn't specifically remember hearing the last special chiming of Big Ben in 1952, when the famed bell rang to mark the death of George VI.
But she knows that as a girl in Northern Ireland, her mother would have insisted that she listen to it on the radio.
So she was across the street from Parliament when Big Ben rang outside its usual quarter-hour duties for the first time on Friday in 60 years to welcome the Olympics.
The two and a half minute ringing blended with traffic noise and the ringing of small bells wielded by spectators.
People across Britain were urged to ring everything - doorbells, bike bells, there was even a smartphone bell app at twelve minutes past eight. "Big Ben is London," says Whysall.
Warren Levinson Twitter http://twitter.com/warrenlevinson
MARCHING IN THE RAIN?
After a few days of glorious and, well, summer weather for the summer games, rain is back in London's forecast starting on Friday.
U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis may have to deal with it for a change.
Her sport is an indoor sport, so rain, sun, whatever, it's irrelevant to her in competition. But she's also the U.S. flag bearer for the opening ceremony on Friday night, so she might have to do her job amid raindrops.
"There's so many things that you can't control," Zagunis says. "And the weather is obviously one of them. If it rains, it rains. We're still going to have a great time and it's not going to affect anything."
Zagunis said she has a more simple concern: "I'm just going to focus on not tripping."
Tim Reynolds Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds
Hey, North Korea, it's nothing personal. Turns out the British aren't too good at identifying people's flags and nationalities even their own.
A day after infuriating North Koreans by branding them with the flag of their South Korean foes, Olympic organizers are at it again, this time stumbling over the identity of a fellow Briton.
Joe Allen, who speaks fluent Welsh, is one of five Welshmen on Britain's Olympic soccer team. But the team's newly minted team program labels him English. The Olympic organization committee published a brief apology in English.
Shawn Pogatchnik Twitter http://twitter.com/ShawnPogatchnik
GLIMPSE INTO CYCLING
American cyclist Tyler Farrar had a Tour de France to forget, spending more time on the tarmac than his bike during the first week. But he's still the best hope for the U.S. team in Saturday's road race.
The course into the Surrey countryside should favor sprinters such as Britain's Mark Cavendish , but Farrar has beaten the star from the Isle of Mann in the past - on July 4 during last year's Tour.
Says his American teammate Chris Horner: "If the race ends up in a true bunch sprint, Tyler is our best bet to put someone on the podium."
Jenna Fryer Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer
The Brazilian men's soccer players got to practice their dance moves for Friday night's opening ceremony in their 3-2 victory over Egypt the night before. The famously festive team and its colorful fan base got rocking and rolling in their opener, putting three in the net in the first half and doing some serious dancing and celebrating after each one.
It wasn't quite as celebratory in the second half, when Egypt scored twice to turn a runaway into a bit of a nail-biter. All the more reason for the Brazilians to blow off a little more steam on Friday night.
Jon Krawczynski Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski.
The Olympics are finally here, and with Friday night's opening ceremony fast approaching, the speculation is mounting over who will earn the honor of lighting the Olympic flame.
Bookmakers have assigned odds on who will be the final torchbearer, so this is something you can actually bet on. The British Olympic Association said last week they've made their selection, so a handful of people already know the identity.
That's only heightened the debate, even between some of the contenders.
Sir Steve Redgrave is a five-time rowing gold medalist, but he's publicly questioned if two-time decathlon gold medalist Daley Thompson should get the nod over him. Thompson, meanwhile, has said he's more deserving than Sebastian Coe, two-time Olympic champion in the 1,500 meters and head of the London organizing committee.
And don't forget the celebrities or the royals.
Among the other names bandied about has been Prince William, David Beckham, Paul McCartney, or, maybe, an electronic device. In 1992, archer Antonio Rebollo opened the Games by shooting a flaming arrow toward the cauldron.
Jenna Fryer Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer
Thousands of visitors to London this week have made incredibly long trips to get here. Only one claims to have done it all on a rickshaw.
Farmer Chen Guanming is claiming that he made the entire journey from his home in Eastern China on his three-wheeled rickshaw. He says it took him two years to complete the ride, and he has photos of him in front of famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower to prove his case.
"I came. I did it. I'm very happy to have come to beautiful London," he said.
He made the trip without a ticket for the opening ceremony. He figures if he made it this far, he should be able to come up with a way to get into Olympic Stadium on Friday night.
Sylvia Hui Twitter http://twitter.com/sylviahui