EYES ON LONDON: London chief speaks, golden UK joy

Associated Press
Runners pass through the historic landmark of Leadenhall Market in London during the women's marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Julien Behal, PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT; NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE
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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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COE: FINAL LAP BELL

Games chief Sebastian Coe, a gold-medal runner himself, says he's hearing the final lap bell as the London Olympics hit their halfway point.

In a column written for The Associated Press, Coe muses on the seven years he has spent heading the London organizing committee.

"The first half of the London Games has been a spectacular success that has transformed a naturally cautious British public into a nation of delirious cheerleaders," he writes. "Traditional British reserve has crumbled as strangers exchange Olympic news and watch each other's portable screens to catch the latest action."

He says the crowds have "prompted some to call these the People's Games." But he disagrees, saying "these are the Athletes' Games."

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

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HARD HITTING

It's equal opportunity on the court in Olympic mixed doubles.

Finalist Laura Robson of Britain said she expects male opponents to hit the ball hard at her and she also expects partner Andy Murray not to hold back when he hits it at a female opponent.

"He's not going to hit it as hard as he can!" she said.

"I might," Murray said, smiling. "If it means winning a gold medal or losing one."

Robson said: "Sometimes I'd like him to hit it harder at the girl, but he's too nice."

Murray and Robson play Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi of Belarus for Olympic gold later Sunday.

— Christopher Torchia

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ENGLISH BREAKFAST: JUBILATION

Jill Lawless of AP's London bureau has this to say about Sunday morning in the Olympic Games' host nation:

"Britain awoke, afraid it might all have been a dream. It wasn't."

Six gold medals, including three in track and field within the space of an hour, had given the country its best day at an Olympic Games since 1908. A country accustomed to sporting disappointment could scarcely contain its disbelief.

"Don't choke on your cornflakes," said a BBC morning TV presenter, before telling viewers that Britain, population 63 million, lay third in the medal table, behind the United States (population 310 million) and China (population 1.3 billion).

Sunday British newspapers tried to outdo one another in front-page superlatives.

The Observer declared it "Britain's greatest day," and the Sunday Times — reaching for wartime resonances — said it was "Our finest Olympic hour."

"The six pack," said The Sun — referring, in true tabloid style, both to the gold medalists and to the washboard abs of heptathlon champ Jessica Ennis.

— Jill Lawless — Twitter http://twitter.com/JillLawless

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MEDAL FOR CYPRUS

For the first time at an Olympics, there's a medal for the country of Cyprus — and a new hero who will carry it home.

Sailing champion Pavlos Kontides has earned the small island nation's first-ever Olympic medal. The 22-year-old Kontides has assured himself at least a silver medal in the Laser class and has a slim chance at clinching the gold in Monday's final race.

Cypriot media are praising his achievement as the "brightest page in Cyprus' sporting history." It's certainly a milestone for the island: While Cyprus is said to have fielded some Olympic champions in antiquity, Kontides' medal is its first since the island started taking part in the modern-day Olympics in the 1980 Moscow Games.

The medal offers some cheer to ethnically-split Cyprus roiling under an economic crisis that in June saw it become the fifth country to seek an economic rescue package from its partners in the group of nations that use the euro as their currency.

It's fitting that Cyprus' first Olympic medal comes in sailing, since the seafaring nation's sailing heritage stretches back millennia. Its current shipping registry ranks 10th in the world.

— Menelaos Hadijcostis in Nicosia, Cyprus

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LET'S RUN TWO TODAY

The fastest men in the world on one of the fastest tracks around. Should make for an electric night in the 100-meter dash.

Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and the rest of a blazing will run in the semifinals, with the fastest advancing to the finals on Sunday night.

Bolt was just OK in the preliminaries on Saturday, starting poorly on his way to a 10.09. That's good for sixth fastest, but the world record holder says he feels great heading into the big day. Americans Ryan Bailey and Justin Gatlin are also in the mix.

"My legs are great. My training has been great," Bolt says. "I'm feeling better."

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

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ANYONE FOR ENNIS?

This wasn't a competition. It was a coronation.

With a healthy lead in the heptathlon, Britain's Olympic poster girl Jessica Ennis could almost have walked around the final event, the 800 meters. But the roars of 80,000 fans carried her over the line in first place.

As she headed around the second and last lap, the Olympic Stadium announcer implored the crowd to make more noise. And, somehow, they did. And they carried her over the line in first place.

I've been in some noisy stadiums in my time (vuvuzelas in South Africa, anybody?) but this felt — I could physically feel the roar — like the loudest by far.

— Mike Corder — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/mikecorder

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CYCLING FIREFIGHTER

A 29-year-old firefighter from California is preparing to compete in the quarterfinals of the sprint tournament, track cycling's blue-ribbon event.

Jimmy Watkins is a full-time firefighter who keeps a bike next to his fire engine so he can train. He's says he's appreciative of all of the guys who are covering his shifts back home at the Kern County Fire Department so he can compete.

"Everybody is just super supportive. It's cool to know that you have a lot of people behind you. It make you not want to let them down because a lot of people have sacrificed a lot for me to be here," Watkins said. "I just want to make sure that I don't waste any of their effort."

— Samuel Petrequin — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/sampetrequin

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HE DELIVERED, SHE DIDN'T

Britain's Mo Farah couldn't contain his excitement as he won the 10,000 meters gold medal. But his wife Tania, seven months pregnant, was desperately trying to keep her emotions in check.

The Somali-born Farah embraced his wife, and their young daughter on the track after his Olympic winning run. Tania had earlier joked that being at the stadium at all was probably a risk. The raucous atmosphere, she suggested, could send her into labor early.

She said she'd even checked that there would be doctors on hand at the stadium. Just in case.

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

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CHANGING HIS SPIKES

Marquise Goodwin is headed from the sand pit to the football field.

Goodwin will trade in his track spikes for his cleats. The wide receiver for the Texas Longhorns plans to head back from the Olympics to begin preparing for the upcoming season.

He said practice starts Sunday, and wasn't sure if he'd get any time off.

"I don't know. I didn't get a medal," he said.

Goodwin was struggling to come to terms Saturday night with his defeat.

"Man, started off fouled my first jump which was my farthest jump. Couldn't get on the board," he said. "Disappointing day, I let everyone down. I gave it all I had. I just didn't have it."

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

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MINI MINIS

They are electric, radio controlled, pretty nippy and represent a British icon.

They are the three "mini Minis" introduced to the field of play to shuttle javelins, discuses, shots and hammers from the field back to the throwing area.

BMW say that the vehicles — approximately a quarter scale of the full sized version — will save valuable time during the competition.

Specially trained Gamesmakers are operating the cars - but from what I saw they could still do with a bit of practice.

One drove into a microphone and distance marker on Saturday evening, knocking them askew.

However, it doesn't sound like it is all hard work for the little cars who are expected to cover about 6-kilometers per four hour shift - a member of the stadium staff whispered to me that when everyone had left on Friday night the mini Minis were seen racing each other down the athletics track.

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

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MEDAL DREAMS DASHED

South Korea's soccer team beat Britain 5-4 in a penalty shootout on Saturday night, ending the host country's hopes for an Olympic medal in the sport it invented.

Britain hadn't fielded a men's Olympic soccer team since 1960, and there's no guarantee that the nation will field another unified team. With opposition from the football associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, few see any chance of another team at the 2016 Rio Games.

— Chris Brummitt — Twitter http://twitter.com/cjbrummitt

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STAMPS OF APPROVAL

Britons are busy celebrating their record Olympic gold medal haul, but some are working harder than others to mark the occasion.

Spare a thought for the staff at Britain's Royal Mail, who are working overtime to rush out special next-day stamps for each of the six gold medals won by British athletes Saturday.

The Royal Mail has promised fans that a celebratory stamp will be issued within 24 hours of each British gold medal win.

The mail service says it has never before issued stamps on a Sunday — it would be hard put to find a better reason to break the rule.

— Sylvia Hui — Twitter http://twitter.com/sylviahui

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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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