EYES ON LONDON: Freaked out, swans, Usain Colt

Associated Press
Nigeria's Ogho-Oghene Egwero, left, Jamaica's Usain Bolt, center, and Britain's James Dasaolu compete in a men's 100-meter heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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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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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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BOX THAT ROCKS

Their faces are painted and they're wearing Katy Perry wigs. They chant, sing and whistle all game long.

It can only be the fans in the "Box That Rocks."

My first trip inside the Copper Box, the raucous arena that's home of the team handball tournament.

I've heard from everyone it's a must see, and it hasn't disappointed.

Argentina and Sweden were going at it, and the place was rocking. Here's a picture: www.yfrog.com/obor6kyj

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

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RACKET DOPING

So you think table tennis is a low-key, low-stakes rainy-day game? No way. There's a form of "doping" in pingpong.

It has nothing to do with ingesting banned substances. We're talking about doctoring the racket to get more spin and speed, more dips and curves for the celluloid sphere.

The substances go by various names — speed glue, booster or tuner. The world governing body of table tennis has eliminated some of the problem but has yet to wipe it out.

Matthew Syed, a two-time Olympian and three-time Commonwealth table tennis champion, lends insight.

"Table tennis has two distinct meanings," says Syed. "It's a mass participation parlor game that anybody can play. It's recreational. Then you have the elite, techno-crazy game. They are very different. So people are often surprised.

"But at this level, people are always looking for that edge."

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

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THE CAP CARRIER

While youth may often triumph at the Olympics, it can also have its disadvantages.

Take Sandro Sukno.

Croatia's biggest offensive weapon in water polo and the team's leading scorer so far at the Olympics with nine goals, Sukno trudged past reporters carrying his teammates' caps slung over his shoulder on the way to the locker room after netting two goals in an 11-6 win over Australia.

Asked how he got stuck with the task, the 22-year-old Sukno shrugged: "I'm the youngest."

— Ryan Lucas — Twitter www.twitter.com/relucasz

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SYRIA PROTEST

A dozen people opposed to the Syrian government have protested the presence at the Olympics of equestrian rider Ahmad Saber Hamsho, whose father is under U.S. and EU sanctions for supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Hamsho competed Saturday in the show jumping individual qualifier.

He's been quoted in the British media as supporting Assad. On Saturday, he dismissed the protesters outside the gate as "stupid."

"They should be proud of us athletes who are representing Syria," he said.

In Damascus, heavy explosions shook the capital Saturday and helicopters circled overhead as rebels appeared to be renewing their offensive in the city.

— Nicole Winfield — Twitter www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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THE BOLT FACTOR

American sprinter Justin Gatlin has some advice for anyone up against Usain Bolt: Forget he's there.

"He's the equivalent of the guy walking on the moon for the first time," says Gatlin. "You have to line up in the blocks shoulder to shoulder with this guy? You're going to be in awe sometimes."

He says he's seen inexperienced runners allow themselves to be defeated by Bolt before a race has even begun.

"I think a lot of runners almost have that audience mentality — see what he's going to do, even while you're running. You've got to block that out, go out there and compete against that guy."

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

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SMELLY PLATES OF MEAT

Volunteers at the London Olympics are only issued two pairs of socks for their "plates of meat" (that's "feet" to those not well versed in cockney rhyming slang.)

They're expected to be in the official uniform at all times when on duty. With just two tops, two pairs of trousers and two pairs of socks that means regular laundry is a must.

However, there's one exception to the rule and luckily it relates to the socks. You are allowed to replace them with your own if you run out — but they should be unbranded and not visible.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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QUICKQUOTE: DON'T SIT

"If you're sitting at home, don't sit at home — stand up. It's going to be crazy, that's what you're going to do anyway, stand up" — American sprinter Justin Gatlin on how viewers should watch Sunday night's men's 100 meter dash.

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

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SERBIAN MILESTONE

Vlade Divac was waiting for this one.

Serbia's Ivana Maksimovic won the silver medal in the Olympic women's 50-meter three-position rifle final on Saturday — the second medal in her family's history, and the 100th all-time for her country.

And Divac, the president of the Serbian Olympic Committee, was there to see history happen.

"She's absolutely a hero," said Divac, the former NBA star. "First medal for her. Second medal for her family. Second medal for our Olympic committee at this Olympic games. And 100th medal in the history of the national Olympic movement. We've been waiting for it and she won it."

— Tim Reynolds — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

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BLAKE TRIES TO DASH OFF

Two Olympic volunteers tried to stop him, but Yohan Blake was having none of it.

Athletes are required to walk through a media zone following races but the Jamaican sprinter cut through a barrier in a bid to dodge everyone.

When challenged, Blake argued he wasn't going back and continued to walk toward what appeared to be a staging area for athletes. More Olympic personnel got involved, and Blake was escorted back out surrounded by at least four workers.

He didn't want to be there, walking briskly through the maze and refusing to stop for any questions.

"How was the race?" I shouted.

"It's not the finals. It's not the finals," he replied as he passed. "Good. Good."

Then he was gone.

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

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QUICKQUOTE: BOLT

"I can't say I've been doing a lot of work on that. We're not focusing on the start, we're focusing on the rest of the race, which I always do. I'm working on the last 60 meters, which is my strong point" — Usain Bolt, commenting on his slow start out of the blocks in Saturday's 100-meter heat.

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

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BOLT VS BLAKE

In his first appearance at the London Olympics, Usain Bolt did what he had to do to advance to the 100-meter semifinals, overcoming a slow start to win his heat in 10.09 seconds Saturday. Yohan Blake finished his heat a fraction faster in 10.00 seconds.

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

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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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