EYES ON LONDON: Devastated, exhausted, triumphant

Associated Press
Britain's Jack Green holds his thigh after falling in a men's 400-meter hurdles heat during athletics competition in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012 in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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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:

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DEVASTATED

The crowd at Olympic Stadium went silent when British hurdler Jack Green fell early in Saturday night's semifinals.

Green was in tears after failing to advance to the 400-meter hurdle finals.

"I hit hurdle three because I'm an idiot," says Green, who bloodied his knees.

It was a humbling moment for the young sprinter, who is now hopeful he'll still be considered for Britain's relay team.

"I'm not good enough on this level like I thought I was," he says. "I need to get on that relay team and show people what I can really do with a baton in my hand."

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer

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GRUELING RACE

Olympic gold medals are often decided by tiny margins. Just not normally in a two-hour-long triathlon over nearly 34 miles (55 kms).

After a swimming, cycling and running slog, Nicola Spirig held off Lisa Norden in one of the best finishes in any sport at the London Games. Norden's desperate late sprint following a lung-bursting, long-distance effort took the Swede across the line in exactly the same time as Switzerland's Spirig: 1 hour 59 minutes, 49 seconds.

Only Spirig was awarded gold on a photo finish and Norden was pushed back to silver.

Agonizing.

"I'm always a little bit too late, hey?" Sweden's Norden joked after arriving at the press conference a few minutes after the other two medalists.

Track runners and swimmers are used to close calls — ask Michael Phelps after he was nipped by Chad le Clos by five-hundredths of a second in the 200-meter butterfly. But that race lasted less than two minutes.

At Hyde Park, the clock incredibly couldn't separate Spirig and Norden at the end. Both fell to the ground, exhausted, after breaking the tape together. Both then celebrated, but only one got gold.

— Gerald Imray — Twitter http://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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NORTH VS. SOUTH, PEACEABLY

Sports met politics Saturday at the Olympics: North Korea took on South Korea in table tennis.

South Korea won 3-1 and, as usual, players from one of the most secretive countries in the world wouldn't speak to reporters.

The two are technically at war, but Saturday they played a game that's often brought them together. South Korean Ryu Seung-min defeated North Korean Kim Hyok Bong in the fourth match to seal the victory. The two played as a team last year in Qatar in an exhibition match to promote world peace.

But, says Ryu, "On the court we are at war — table tennis war."

Despite the political overtones, the atmosphere at the 6,000-seat sellout was sporting, with warm applause for each side.

South Korean coach Yoo Nam-kyu — he won gold in Seoul in 1988 — says players chat in the players village, but there's tension on the court.

"We are the same people and speak the same language, but politically we are not very friendly at the moment," Yoo says. "From the history we felt we have to win against North Korea — because it's North Korea. ... When we talk, it's about everyday life. We don't talk political stuff."

— Stephen Wade — Twitter http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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'WE LOADED'

LaShawn Merritt pulled up early in the 400 meter semifinals, and his status for the men's 4x400 relay is uncertain.

But the Americans aren't worried about possibly not having him on the relay team.

"We loaded. We've got the best 400 meter runners in the world," said Angelo Taylor.

The defending 400 hurdle champion said it reminds him of the 1996 Olympic Games.

"Michael Johnson, he goes out, breaks the world record in the 200, gets cramped and he's not ready to go run the relay. But guess what? The guys stepped up and we still won the gold. So I'm not worried at all."

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer

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WILLS AND KATE

Among the loudest roars at Olympic Stadium in the early going of track and field Saturday night came when Prince William and his wife, Kate, were shown on the scoreboard.

The royal couple was sitting in the stands, with "Wills" looking rather like any average sports fan, a red baseball cap atop his head.

Seated next to the prince: Prime Minister David Cameron. No word on who bought the hot dogs.

— Howard Fendrich — Twitter http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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TICKET TO RIDE

He saw them claim their own record, then Paul McCartney serenaded Britain's female cyclists with one of his: leading a mass sing along of "Hey Jude" to celebrate the team's gold medal ride in the women's team pursuit final.

The three riders smashed the world record as they won the event — drawing whoops of delight from McCartney, daughter Stella and wife Nancy Shevell, watching on in the velodrome stands.

McCartney, who appeared at the Olympics opening ceremony, joined in with a jubilant crowd as the Beatles hit was played out through the public address system.

— David Stringer - Twitter http://twitter.com/david_stringer

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US FLAG MAKES A STATEMENT

Was it nature's way of messing with the royals? A statement about who truly rules at Wimbledon?

As Serena Williams stood atop the medal podium, her career Golden Slam complete thanks to an Olympic rout, the wind on Centre Court blew the U.S. flag off its pole midway through the national anthem.

And Old Glory came to rest in front of the Royal Box.

"It was probably flying to come hug me because the flag was so happy," said Williams.

Wonder if the royals were amused.

— Steven Wine — Twitter http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine

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SPECIAL GUESTS

When the lights go down at the venues — between sessions — guests are always coming in to look around.

On Saturday it was 20 junior high school students from the area of northern Japan hit hard last year by an earthquake and tsunami. They had great seats to see Japan's women defeat Germany 3-0 in Saturday's table tennis quarterfinal and, after that, posed with Japan's three players — Kasumi Ishikawa, Ai Fukuhara and Sayaka Hirano.

Japan is a medal favorite with China.

"I was so close watching the players. It was so exciting," 13-year-old Haruna Ise says.

The group is also touring London, which is what 13-year-old Nanami Miura wanted to talk about. "We went to the British Museum and I loved it."

She talked like a young ambassador for Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympics. Madrid and Istanbul are also in the running: "We want to get the Olympics because that will help to cheer up everyone in Japan."

— Stephen Wade — Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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LEBRON: THERE WHEN YOU NEED HIM

LeBron James always disappears in crunch time: That was the criticism of James' career for years, and he has dismantled that theory over the last two months.

First he dominated the NBA playoffs with the Heat to earn his first championship. Now he's carrying Team USA.

When Lithuania was testing the Americans for the first time in London, James scored 9 points in the last four minutes to take the game over.

Final: 99-94. Team USA with the win, LeBron with the save.

— Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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F1 IN OLYMPIC STADIUM?

With Formula One on its midseason break, where else for the boss to go than the Olympics?

Bernie Ecclestone took a tour of the Olympic Park on Saturday, a month after hosting IOC President Jacques Rogge at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

F1, though, will never be an Olympic sport. "The Olympics are about people rather than mechanics," Ecclestone says..

But what about a grand prix INSIDE London's Olympic Stadium? That's one of four options to make use of the venue long after the cauldron is extinguished.

Intelligent Transport Services, working in conjunction with F1, is one of four bids, including Premier League club West Ham, being considered as a post-Olympics tenant for the east London venue.

Ecclestone does offer some backing for the prospect of a race based around a downsized 60,000-seat stadium. But if a London Grand Prix is to join the British GP at Silverstone on the F1 calendar, Ecclestone would prefer it to feature the capital's iconic sights.

"I'd rather where we originally planned in central London," Ecclestone says.

— Rob Harris — Twitter http://twitter.com/robharris

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PASS THE REMOTE

Sports fans watching the Olympics on television in other nations — especially in the United States — would barely believe the live action on offer in Britain.

The BBC's two main channels are dedicated to the games. In addition, those who pay for UK satellite TV or are watching via the BBC website can see 24 other live channels.

That means if you want to watch the entire men's 94 kilogram weightlifting, you go right ahead. The sailing channel shows entire races, complete with graphics to help viewers see exactly how far apart the leaders are. Niche sports on tap Saturday included handball, table tennis, water polo, trampolining, field hockey, shooting, fencing, sailing, equestrian and weightlifting. Plus you can watch all the big name events live too.

Honey, where's the remote?

— Sheila Norman-Culp — Twitter http://twitter.com/snormanculp

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GET ME OUT OF HERE!

Sprinter Timi Garstang admits to being a tad overwhelmed at the Olympic stadium on Saturday.

"There were more people there than in my entire country," said the sprinter from the Marshall Islands, in the northern Pacific Ocean (population about 68,000.)

"I was obviously very nervous. That's a lot of people."

He clocked the slowest time of Saturday's heats, finishing the 100 meters in 12.81 seconds — that's 3.23 seconds off Usain Bolt's world record.

Tongue-in-cheek, the 25-year-old says nobody should write him off. "I'll try to beat (Usain) Bolt in Rio de Janeiro," he said. "Why not?"

He may first have to overcome his stage fright.

He saw Bolt in the athletes village this week, but froze.

"We were in the eating area but at that moment I was just too embarrassed. He was surrounded by people, all asking for photos and autographs. But it was a stroke of luck just to see him."

— Jorge Sainz — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/Sainz-Jorge

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STRANDED SWANS

Anyone who's been to an Olympics knows you are often within a few feet of your destination only to be told by a smiling security guard that you have to follow some circuitous path to get in.

Turns out it's not just fans and reporters who wind up on the wrong side of the fence.

These swans (http://goo.gl/vbXJY) were trying to get back to the pond in St. James's Park, near the beach volleyball venue, just on the other side of the decorative fencing. But they had some trouble finding an opening.

Because, you know, they're swans.

No worries. While one volunteer shooed them toward the nearest opening, about 100 feet away, another called up the Royal Parks Service to see if there was anything they could do to help.

A sign titled "For His Majesty's Pleasure" — a cracking name for a Bond movie, I'd say — tells us that the park's original canals were dug in the 17th century for King Charles II, who would "spend many hours feeding the collection of water birds, which included a crane with a wooden leg."

So, all things considered, a lost swan doesn't have it so bad.

— Jimmy Golen — Twitter: http://twitter.com/jgolen

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COLT, NOT BOLT

Usain Bolt delivered Saturday. His equine namesake didn't.

After the Jamaican sprinter won his 100 meters heat in 10.09 seconds at London's Olympic Stadium, Usain Colt fell well short at Newmarket Racecourse, finishing eighth in the 2:20.

"It could have been a case of lightning strikes twice with Colt rather than Bolt, but thank goodness the equine Usain hasn't lived up to the dizzy heights of his human counterpart," says Lucy Rhodes, spokewoman for the British bookmaker William Hill.

Britain's Prince Harry is in the 100-member club that owns Usain Colt.

— Rob Harris — Twitter http://twitter.com/robharris

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GETTING A SCARE

"Needed a game like that. On to the next one." — Team USA forward Kevin Love after a tense 99-94 win over Lithuania in basketball.

— Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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SERENA CAN'T STAND STILL

From AP's Steven Wine at Wimbledon:

"When Serena Williams completed her career Golden Slam by winning an Olympic rout, she began the celebration with a long scream. She hopped a dozen times on the grass she loves, waved to the cheering crowd and hopped some more. Williams was still jumping about as she put on her Team USA jacket for the medal ceremony. Then she began to dance."

Williams became only the second woman to achieve a Golden Slam, winning the most lopsided women's final in Olympic history Saturday by beating Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1.

— Steven Wine — Twitter http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine

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RELAY CONCERN

Paging Jeremy Wariner. Your presence on the 4x400 relay team just became even more vital.

Wariner won gold in the 400 meters eight years ago and silver in Beijing, but didn't qualify for London after a less-than-stellar performance at U.S. Trials.

He made the team as part of the relay pool and just may be called upon to run the anchor leg of the relay.

Recently, that's been LaShawn Merritt's job. But the 2008 Olympic champion pulled up with a left hamstring injury in his qualifying heat Saturday and is out of the competition. His status for the relay is uncertain.

Don't write off Merritt just yet. He insisted he could be ready when the relay heats begin Thursday. The U.S. is trying to win the event at an eighth straight Olympics.

"We have some more time before the relay comes up," Merritt says. "If I go out and really hit it in practice and still feel it, I'll let somebody else run. We have a lot of depth in the 400, a lot of young guys."

Like Bryshon Nellum and Tony McQuay, who could also anchor the relay. Or even Wariner, who ran the last lap to bring home gold in 2008.

— Pat Graham — Twitter http://twitter.com/pgraham34

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BOXER, IN BRIEF

Irish light flyweight Paddy Barnes might be the funniest boxer in London, and the jokester has had plenty of time to keep his teammates entertained while he waited seven days for his first Olympic fight.

After beating Cameroon's Thomas Essomba 15-10 on Saturday to reach the quarterfinals, Barnes shared the horrors of his Olympic experience: "It's been a nightmare waiting in the (athletes') village for so long, having people chasing me all over for autographs."

So who's been the biggest bother? "Probably Bolt."

In truth, Barnes and teammate Michael Conlon are in a friendly contest to take the most pictures with famous athletes. Conlon is also chasing Jessica Ennis because, in his words, "I love her."

— Greg Beacham — Twitter http://twitter.com/gregbeacham

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QUICKQUOTE: ONE WEEK IN

"It's been that lovely mix of the unexpected, the great names from overseas that have come through and those big British moments." — London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe, telling The Associated Press about how he sees the London Olympics at their halfway point.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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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.

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