EYES ON LONDON: Getting psyched and some slapstick

Associated Press
Kazakhstan's Alexandr Vinokourov celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Men's Road Cycling race at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. Rigoberto Uran of Colombia took silver, with Alexander Kristoff of Norway claiming bronze. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
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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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PSYCHED AMERICAN

U.S. freestyle wrestler Jake Herbert is the team's resident jokester and could barely keep a straight face during a press conference on Saturday. But when asked how he flips the switch just before a match, he gave great insight into the mental approach of athletes competing in one of the world's roughest sports.

"You start to look at that guy across the mat and you start to think of what he's trying to take away from you (and think) 'He didn't work as hard as me. I know for a fact he wasn't up at 6 a.m., he wasn't hitting the bike until he puked. He wasn't hitting the weights as hard as me. He wasn't as dedicated as I am. He doesn't want it as much as I do.' And it starts that excitement. It starts getting my blood pressure going. It starts getting the hairs standing on the back of my neck."

Upon hearing Herbert's rant, teammate Sam Hazewinkel responded "I ready to go, man. Whew!"

Herbert and Hazewinkel will have to calm down though. The freestyle wrestling competition doesn't start until Aug. 10.

—Luke Meredith — Twitter http://twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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TWITTER MENTIONS

Twitter says there was a worldwide total of 9.66 million mentions of the Opening Ceremony from the start of proceedings until the end of its broadcast in the US.

— Rob Harris — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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SHE MAKES A DIFFERENCE

There is nothing more important than the Olympics, right? How about a wedding?

Croatian women's basketball player Marija Vrsaljko skipped last week's exhibition game against the United States to get married.

The Americans pounded Croatia by 54 points in the game.

Having the lanky center back in the lineup is making a difference in the opener. She has eight points early in the third quarter and Croatia trails by just four points.

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

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HOW MUCH?!

Day One in the Olympic Park and already visitors are feeling it in their wallets.

"Twenty-five pounds for a T-shirt!" exclaimed Catherine Goley of Birmingham, who was browsing through a London 2012 souvenir shop — and made a hasty exit after finding nothing in her price range.

She had tickets for Saturday night's swim competition, but others without tickets came to the park just to check it out, paying 10 pounds ($15) to get in and another 15 pounds ($22) to go up the Orbit observation deck.

Colleen Whalen, of Cincinnati, Ohio, said she would have paid to go up since that's the only way to see inside the main stadium and the Olympic flame, but tickets were sold out.

Whalen, who won a ticket to the swim finals, said she briefly considered buying a ticket for the opening ceremony, but balked at the price for the remaining seats.

"The only tickets left were 1800 or 2300 pounds and yes, that's definitely out of my price range." (In dollars, that's a cool $2,800 to $3,570).

- Nicole Winfield — Twitter at http://twitter.com/nwinfield

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PRIORITIES

Brazilian rower Kissya da Costa has put her modeling career on hold to pursue her dream of Olympic gold at the London Games.

The 30-year-old, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the women's single sculls on Saturday with a fourth-place finish in her heat, says she hasn't posed in front of the cameras for two years because of the demands of her sport.

"I don't miss modeling," she told The Associated Press. "In Brazil, it doesn't earn you much money."

She now divides her time between rowing and studying nutrition at university, where she still has two years left in her degree.

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US FEEL

From the Ludacris and Ice Cube blaring on the speakers to the cheerleaders and hype man who fills the breaks in the action, the presentation of basketball in London has a decidedly American feel.

An in-arena announcer tries to pump up the crowd, similar to many NBA arenas.

"Who here is supporting Croooo-aaaaatia?!?" he hollers.

"And who is supporting Americaaaaaa?!?"

The White Stripes, Queen and the Rolling Stones are also heard to appeal to the rock and roll set.

And for the basketball novices in the crowd, the announcer explains things like flagrant fouls and what happens when a team is in foul trouble.

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

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SWEDISH STEEL

The bar used in the Olympic weightlifting competition is made of Swedish steel built to withstand 1.5 tons without snapping or losing its shape. That's four times more weight than the strongest competitors can lift.

The elasticity of the bar allows it to bend back into shape after each lift, says Erik Blomberg, CEO of Eleiko, the supplier of the weightlifting equipment used in London.

The plates consist of a steel hub coated with rubber. The firmness of the rubber is key, once the lifter lets go of the bar. "Not too soft so that it bounces out of control. And not too hard so that it damages the platform," says Bloomberg.

Karl Ritter — Twitter http://twitter.com/karl_ritter

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SYRIA'S BALANCING ACT

He's in a delicate position for sure.

The head of Syria's Olympic team at the London Games is choosing his words carefully to describe the ambitions of the country's athletes and the government, whose forces are bombarding his home city of Aleppo.

Maher Khayata said he was worried about his family, trapped in Aleppo during one of the most significant battles of the 17-month uprising in Syria. But he said the army is trying to "protect people and keep them safe."

Three Syrian athletes were competing on the first full day of competition in swimming, shooting and boxing Saturday. Back home, the army pounded Aleppo by helicopters to flush out rebels.

"There are two sides of the dispute," Khayata said. "One of them is fighting to seek power and the other side wants to keep the security of the country."

"I am a sportsman, not a politician. Everyone knows there are armed people and the army that is trying to protect people and keep them safe."

— Barbara Surk — Twitter http://twitter.com/BarbaraSurkAP

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SLAPSTICK MISHAP

And now for something completely different.

It was bound to happen in the land of Monty Python and Mr. Bean: We've just had our first slapstick comedy-related mishap of the London Games.

The beach volleyball venue at Horse Guards Parade has been playing the "Benny Hill" theme over the loudspeaker while the raking crew smooths out the sand during timeouts. That inspired a couple of fans to mimic the show — in short, to start running around the concourse between the upper and lower sections, chasing and being chased by a pair of blondes in skirts.

The crowd loved it, and the P.A. announcer also egged them on, until one of the blokes ran smack-dab into an Olympic volunteer.

The crowd gasped.

The two quickly hugged it off and went back to their respective duties: She resumed directing fans to their seats and he headed for the beer concession.

The volunteer, who declined to give her name, said she was uninjured. The fan, who said to identify him and his mate as "The Murray Brothers," seemed more concerned about spilling some of his beer.

The Associated Press has learned exclusively that it was not his first of the day.

So, no crisis here. Until a giant cartoon foot comes out of the sky and stomps out the venue, that is.

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

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QUEEN'S STUNTMAN

Gary Connery has completed more than 880 sky dives in his career as a stuntman — but never dressed as a woman.

He donned a dress and silver wig as Queen Elizabeth II, while his colleague Mark Sutton doubled for James Bond actor Daniel Craig, as the pair leaped Friday night from a helicopter above Olympic Park as part of the big surprise in the four-hour opening ceremony.

"Love the dress, will see if I can keep it," Connery tweeted after landing on a narrow bridge beside the stadium, a stunt he and Sutton had been training for months to do.

Connery's no slouch as a stuntman. Earlier this year he jumped 2,400 feet (730 meters) from a helicopter and landed — without using any parachute at all. Instead he used a carpet of 18,600 cardboard boxes to break his fall.

— Shawn Pogatchnik — Twitter http://twitter.com/ShawnPogatchnik

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IT WASN'T TO BE

The excitement near the road course finish line outside the palace fell flat as Great Britain and favorite Mark Cavendish failed to win a medal.

"I was there when he didn't win it!" shouted Richard Jones of London.

He'd been watching the race on television with his wife and another couple when they decided with an hour to go to hustle over to Buckingham Palace for the finish.

"We practically did a triathlon to get here," said Jane Carson of Chester. "And we didn't even get very close — but neither did Cav."

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

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STAG DO

A rowing regatta isn't the usual place to start a bachelor party.

It worked out just fine for husband-to-be Martin Stanning, though, as he watched sister Heather romp to victory in the women's pair with partner Helen Glover at Dorney Lake— setting a Olympic best time in the process.

Martin was under orders in the "stag do" — as it's called in Britain — from his older brother Alistair, who was organizer-in-chief. His parents were there, too.

Glover and Stanning are big favorites to win the final of the women's pair on Wednesday after going through this season unbeaten. If they win gold, they'll become the first British women to do so.

—Steve Douglas — Twitter http://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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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, and get even more AP updates from the Games here: http://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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