EYES ON LONDON: Tickets, and a cycle-loving queen

Associated Press
Spectators line the bank of river Thames to watch the royal barge Gloriana, (not shown) carrying the Olympic flame after it left Hampton Court Palace in London, on its way into central London on the final day of the Torch Relay, Friday, July 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
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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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PAU'S HONOR

When Spain walks into Olympic stadium on Friday night for the opening ceremomy, they'll be led by Pau Gasol. The basketball star has been designated the nation's flag bearer, one of the highest honors an Olympic athlete can get.

"It's an amazing honor," Gasol said. "I feel very lucky and privileged to be carrying the flag and leading all of our athletes into the stadium. It will be a very memorable moment in my career."

The Spanish basketball team is considered one of the few teams that could challenge the mighty Americans for the gold medal. Despite a 100-78 exhibition loss to the United States earlier this week, Gasol's hopes remain high.

"Argentina, Russia, France and the USA are obviously the toughest teams," Gasol said. "But that has to proven during the tournament."

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

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GOT TIX?

AP's Jenna Fryer, out and about in London, reports in:

I want to buy tickets to the gold medal game in men's beach volleyball. Maybe some for athletics, too. But I can't, and it's because I'm an American.

The final available tickets have been released, but you can only get them through the official website if you are a "resident of the UK or a designated European country." Since I don't meet that criteria, I've got to go through an authorized ticket reseller.

Slight problem: CoSport, the ATR for the United States, doesn't have tickets available for anything.

So, you've got a case of someone in London willing to part with an exorbitant amount of cash — the only tickets left for the final day of track and field are going for 725 pounds (more than $1,000) — but unable to open my wallet because of my nationality.

Meanwhile, the website SeatGeek has tracked more than 60 ticketing sites and found that the opening ceremony tickets have Super Bowl-like demand, and the average resale price is $2,550. If you are an American wanting to get in to Friday night's event, paying that price through eBay is likely your only option.

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

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ROYAL CYCLE-LOVER

Queen Elizabeth II, like so many in Britain, has taken quite a shine to cycling.

Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour de France last weekend, and David Millar also won a stage during La Grande Boucle. Sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, the reigning road world champion, is among the favorites to win Saturday's race that begins and ends just outside of Buckingham Palace.

"I was at a reception at Buckingham Palace the other night and the IOC president was introducing her to certain people," UCI President Pat McQuaid said of the queen.

"He introduces her to me and said, 'Mr. McQuaid is a president of a very important federation and it's cycling," he said. "With that, her eyes lit up. She said, 'Oh, we're very successful in cycling now. We just won the Tour de France!' She was very aware of it."

—Dave Skretta — http://www.twitter.com/APdaveskretta

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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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FLAME LIGHTER?

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

LONG RIDE

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

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FLYING SQUIRREL(S)

Watch your head for Flying Squirrels at the London Olympics. There's more than one of 'em.

U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler Ellis Coleman earned that nickname a few years ago because of his risky, signature move of the same name. Pint-sized gymnast Gabby Douglas earned the exact same moniker for the way she seems to fearlessly fly through the air on the uneven bars.

The two Flying Squirrels had a run-in Thursday — sort of.

"Oh my God, I think he wanted a picture with us today. He's pretty big, right?," said Douglas, asked whether she had met Coleman. "Yeah, I think so."

Turns out the photo never happened, though. Squirrels are hard to catch.

"We had to catch a bus," Douglas said, "so we didn't have time."

—Dave Skretta — Twitter http://twitter.com/APdaveskretta

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VOLLEYBALL AND HORSE GUARDS

The beach volleyball venue is taking up some prime London real estate: Horse Guards Parade, which is basically in the prime minister's front yard and not far from Buckingham Palace and Parliament, too.

So, what are the Horse Guards doing while their usual home is covered with sand? They're running through their usual routine across the street.

In a lesser-known changing of the guard, a group of blue-coated riders, some of them with shiny armor vests, sit facing another set wearing red. After measuring each other up for a few minutes, one officer barks out commands, they sheath their swords and ride off single file.

A friendly bobby explained that the different colors represent different regiments.

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

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MARCHING IN THE OPENING

Geno Auriemma says one of his fondest Olympic memories remains having the chance to march in the opening ceremony of the Sydney Games.

Far be it from him to deny his U.S. women's basketball team the opportunity.

Some athletes and teams who compete on the first full day of the Olympics traditionally tend to skip the opening ceremony the night before, simply because it's a late night and hours and hours of being on your feet during the entry parade.

But Auriemma's team will march, and he's perfectly fine with that choice.

"They all march. They will," Auriemma said. "No question, it's difficult. But you know, marching in the ceremony is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, maybe. And it's something everyone should get to experience."

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

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CALL ME MAYBE

Missy Franklin's dancing skills are on full display in the U.S. swimming team's video set to the ubiquitous song "Call Me Maybe."

The 17-year-old teenager boogies down the aisle of a plane and whips her long hair around while lip-syncing to the Carly Rae Jepsen tune that has inspired countless viral videos.

Michael Phelps, wearing sunglasses, bobs his head from his airplane seat at the beginning.

Brendan Hansen grooves underwater, including some robot moves, and real-life couple Rebecca Soni and Ricky Berens move in for a kiss when a singing Dana Vollmer pops up between them. Ryan Lochte, with a towel wrapped around his upper body, smooches into the camera, a move sure to delight his female fans.

Matt Grevers shakes his booty, a dancing Anthony Ervin takes his hat off and jauntily tosses it at the camera, and Eric Shanteau does the sprinkler while going down a water slide at the team's pre-Olympic training camp in France. The video, which includes other U.S. swimmers, was posted Thursday on USA Swimming's web site.

Even Jon Urbanchek, a special coaching assistant, gets in on the act. He turns 76 this summer.

—Beth Harris — Twitter http://twitter.com/bethharrisap

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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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