EYES ON LONDON: PUTIN, BLACK BELT, AT JUDO

By The Associated Press





Douglas wins all-around Olympic title
JAY COHEN,AP Sports Writer

LONDON (AP) — Five things to know about Thursday, Day 6 of the London Olympics:

—Gabby Douglas lights up gym with another gold.

—One more time: Phelps takes 200 IM again.

—Ann Romney “thrilled” by horse’s performance.

—Anthony keys record-setting performance for US hoops.

—Probe into Olympic badminton flap widens.

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Now this is fierce.

Gabby Douglas became the third straight American to win gymnastics’ biggest prize when she won the all-around Olympic title on Thursday. She finished with a score of 62.232, about three-tenths ahead of Viktoria Komova of Russia.

It’s her second gold medal of the London Games, coming two nights after she and her “Fierce Five” teammates gave the United States its first Olympic team title since 1996.

Douglas brought the house down with her energetic floor routine, and U.S. pals Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross jumped to their feet and cheered when she finished. Douglas flashed a smile and coach Liang Chow lifted her off the podium.

Michael Phelps also had a smile on his face after he added to his medal collection with his first individual gold medal of the London Games.

The U.S. star set the tone right from the start to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual event at three straight Olympics, capturing the 200-meter individual medley for his 20th career medal — and 16th gold. Teammate Ryan Lochte settled for silver and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh took the bronze.

Americans Rebecca Soni (200 breaststroke) and Tyler Clary (200 backstroke) also won. Soni lowered her own world record with a time of 2 minutes, 19.59 seconds in the final.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands took the 100 freestyle, clocking 53.00 to improve on her own Olympic record.

Ann Romney was on hand to watch her horse in dressage at Greenwich Park, and said she was thrilled by Rafalca’s performance.

The wife of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in the VIP section of the stadium for Rafalca’s Olympic debut, watching literally from the edge of her seat as the 15-year-old, German-bred mare completed the 7-minute Grand Prix test.

She and Rafalca’s other two owners gave horse and rider Jan Ebeling a rousing standing ovation and a wave as they left the arena. Their score of 70.243 percent put them in 13th place with half the 50 competitors still to go.

“She was consistent and elegant,” Romney told The Associated Press. “She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death.”

Rafalca has been the source of political jokes and Democratic ads questioning how Mitt Romney can presume to know the problems of ordinary Americans when he inhabits the rarefied world of dressage.

Ebeling, who became a U.S. citizen in 1998, said the Romneys have been great supporters of the sport and have helped boost its visibility.

“I really welcome the attention,” he said. “It’s given us a fantastic opportunity to have our sport — have visibility in our sport — and show what we’re really about, show that it is an Olympic discipline and show people how much we work to get there.”

Politics also took center stage at ExCel when British Prime Minister David Cameron joined Russian President Vladimir Putin at the judo competition.

It’s not a stretch to describe Putin — an honorary president of the International Judo Federation — as the world’s best-known judo fan. Putin has been a judo competitor since his childhood, eventually gaining the rank of black belt.

“I am delighted to be taking the president to the judo, but note that we will be spectators — and not participants,” Cameron joked as the men left his Downing Street residence.

The U.S. men’s basketball team returned to the court and put together a dominant performance in a 156-73 win against Nigeria.

Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points to set the American Olympic mark for points in a game — in less than three quarters. He made 10 of 12 3-point attempts.

The U.S. also set the Olympic record for points in a game and points in a half (78). The Americans bettered the U.S. records as well for 3-pointers (26), field goals (59) and field-goal percentage (71).

Kobe Bryant scored 16 points — 14 in the first quarter — for the Americans, who scored 49 points in the first and didn’t let up after scoring 78 in the first 20 minutes.

Ike Diogu scored 27 for Nigeria (1-2).

The Olympic badminton controversy continued for a third day, with the IOC demanding a deeper investigation into the scandal and an embattled Chinese player appearing to quit the tarnished sport.

Four doubles teams were kicked out of competition Wednesday, and the women — the top-seeded pair from China, two pairs from South Korea and one from Indonesia — were also set to have their accreditations removed by their national Olympic bodies and sent home.

Defending Olympic champion Yu Yang of China went further by apparently announcing her retirement from badminton.

“This is my last game,” read a posting on a verified account for Yu on the Tencent microblogging service. “Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.”

Yu’s retirement could not be confirmed with Chinese badminton officials and was not referenced in an interview with state television.

The rest of the Olympic action Thursday:

JUDO

Kayla Harrison tried to keep it together. Once the national anthem started, so did the tears.

Harrison defeated Britain’s Gemma Gibbons to win the United States’ first judo gold medal in Olympic history, taking the 78-kilogram title.

The 22-year-old Middletown, Ohio, native who lives in suburban Boston went to the medal podium determined not to cry. After one note of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” she succumbed.

“I’m just so honored to be America’s first gold medalist, and so happy to realize my dream,” she said.

Tagir Khaibulaev of Russia won the men’s 100-kg gold, beating Beijing champion Tuvshinbayar Naidan of Mongolia with a match-ending ippon throw.

TENNIS

Roger Federer is still rolling in his pursuit of his first Olympic singles medal.

Federer beat American John Isner 6-4, 7-6 (5) and will play No. 8-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals.

Serena Williams, another reigning Wimbledon champion who is seeking her first Olympic singles medal, advanced by beating former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-0, 6-3. Williams’ opponent in the semifinals Friday will be top-seeded Victoria Azarenka, who beat Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5.

Russians Maria Sharapova and Maria Kirilenko will meet in the other women’s semi.

Novak Djokovic also advanced on the men’s side and next plays Britain’s Andy Murray.

VOLLEYBALL

Captain Clay Stanley scored 19 points and the U.S. men’s team defeated Brazil 3-1 in a preliminary-round rematch of the Beijing final.

The 23-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-17 victory extends the United States’ Olympic winning streak to 11 matches.

Leandro Vissotto Neves had 15 points for No. 1 Brazil.

Poland, Russia, Bulgaria and Italy each won in straight sets. Former NBA center Vlade Divac was on hand to cheer Serbia, which fell 3-2 to Germany.

CYCLING

Germany’s Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel checked a computer screen several times before erupting in laughter.

Yup, Olympic champions.

Welte and Vogel won the gold in sprint track cycling after the Chinese duo of Guo Shuang and Gong Jinjie was disqualified for a lane change in the final.

The Chinese pair had finished a victory lap and was celebrating when the announcement was made.

Britain broke its own world record set earlier in the day to win its second straight gold medal in the men’s team sprint. The team of Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy posted a time of 42.600 seconds, bettering the mark of 42.747 they had set in the previous round.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL

All four American teams — two in the men’s tournament and two in the women’s — finished the round-robin atop their pools, with defending gold medalists Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser beating the Czech Republic in the finale.

Defending world champions Emanuel and Alison of Brazil struggled through an extended first set to beat Italy and win their group. The Brazilians beat Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo 26-24, 21-18.

Americans Jennifer Kessy and April Ross finished 3-0 with a 21-19, 19-21, 19-17 victory over Spain. Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor finished their pool play with a No. 1 seed on Wednesday, as did Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal.

WATER POLO

Tony Azevedo scored four goals and the U.S. men’s team beat Britain 13-7 to remain undefeated at the London Games.

The Americans are on top of Group B with six points, one ahead of gold medal-favorite Serbia, with two preliminary stage matches to go.

Serbia played to an 11-11 draw with Montenegro. The Serbs face the U.S. on Saturday.

Spain, Greece, Hungary and Croatia all won.

BOXING

U.S. boxers are dropping out of the Olympic tournament at a rapid rate.

The American skid reached seven straight bouts with narrow defeats for lightweight Jose Ramirez and middleweight Terrell Gausha. Only welterweight Errol Spence and flyweight Rau’shee Warren — who hasn’t fought yet — are still alive.

Ramirez started slowly and never caught up in a 15-11 loss to Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, while Gausha was locked in a tight one with Beijing bronze medalist Vijender Singh of India before dropping a 16-15 decision.

Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko opened his second Olympics in the same dominant style that made him the best boxer in Beijing, overwhelming Dominican lightweight Wellington Arias in a 15-3 victory.

ROWING

The United States defended its title in the women’s eight, maintaining its six-year dominance of the high-profile event.

The Americans won in a time of 6 minutes, 10.59 seconds. Canada finished a half-length behind in second and the Netherlands took the bronze.

The U.S. hasn’t lost a competitive race in the eight since winning the world title in 2006.

New Zealand picked up its first gold of the London Games when Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan won the double sculls final at Dorney Lake. Italy and Slovenia grabbed the next two spots on the podium.

South Africa captured its first Olympic rowing gold when its closing charge was enough to take the lightweight men’s four. Britain edged Denmark for silver.

SAILING

British star Ben Ainslie finally stuck his stern in front of Denmark’s Jonas Hoegh-Christensen to boost his bid for sailing history.

Ainslie got his first victory at the London Olympics in Race 7 in the Finn class in strong winds and big seas on the English Channel. He followed it up by passing Hoegh-Christensen just before the finish in Race 8 to take third.

Ainslie sliced Hoegh-Christensen’s lead from 10 points to three with two races to go before the medals race.

Defending Star gold medalists Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson went 1-2 to strengthen their lead over Brazil’s Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada, who went 3-5. The British lead with 13 points while the Brazilians have 22.

Britain’s 49er crew of Stephen Morrison and Ben Rhodes won both races to jump into silver medal position.

CANOE

Britain took the top two spots in canoe slalom, upsetting the three-time defending champions from Slovakia.

Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott won the gold, followed by teammates David Florence and Richard Hounslow.

Slovakian twins Pavol and Peter Hochschorner settled for bronze. It was a stunning defeat for the Hochschorners, who have also won the last three world championships and are ranked No. 1.

Emilie Fer of France was the surprise winner in women’s kayak slalom. Australia’s Jessica Fox took the silver, and the bronze went to Spain’s Maialen Chourraut.

HANDBALL

Ivan Cupic scored seven goals and Croatia beat Hungary 26-19 to reach the quarterfinals.

Croatia leads Group B with the maximum six points, two clear of Spain and Denmark, which edged Serbia 26-25. Croatia beat Hungary 26-19.

Daniel Narcisse had seven goals to help France qualify for the knockout stage by defeating Tunisia 25-19, and Argentina beat host Britain 32-21 for its first win of the tournament.

Spain also won, edging South Korea 33-29, and Iceland topped Sweden 33-32.

ELSEWHERE IN LONDON

One day after upsetting Argentina at the Olympics, the U.S. women’s field hockey team lost 1-0 to Australia. … It was all China in men’s table tennis, with Zhang Jike beating teammate Wang Hao 4-1 in the singles final. China has claimed 22 of 26 gold medals since pingpong was introduced at the Olympics in 1988. … Ki Bo-bae added the individual archery title to the women’s team gold she won with South Korea. Ki edged Aida Roman of Mexico in a sudden-death shoot-off to claim the top singles spot. … British shooter Peter Wilson won the double trap gold. Hakan Dahlby of Sweden grabbed the silver, and Vasily Mosin of Russia was awarded the bronze. … Kim Jiyeon of South Korea grabbed the fencing gold for women’s individual sabre. … Archrivals and friends Lin Dan of China and Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia each won to move closer to the men’s singles final in badminton.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

Eyes On London

LONDON — 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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IT ALL PAID OFF

Two years after Gabby Douglas left her home and family, moving halfway across the country at 14 in search of better coaching, she’s claimed the biggest prize in gymnastics.

The 16-year-old from Virginia Beach, Virginia, beat Viktoria Komova on Thursday to become the third straight American to win the Olympic all-around title, and first African-American. She took the lead after the first event and never relinquished it, locking up the gold with a floor exercise that had the O2 Arena rocking.

She flashed a bright grin when she finished, while her mother, siblings and the family that’s taken her in and made her one of their own, shared joyful hugs. When she stood atop the medals podium, she wore a smile bright enough to outshine that pretty gold medal around her neck.

— Nancy Armour — Twitter http://twitter.com/nrarmour

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CALL ME

U.S. judo coach Jimmy Pedro brought two backup phones to the London Olympics.

And when Kayla Harrison delivered the first Olympic gold medal in USA Judo’s history, all of Pedro’s phones went bonkers with calls and texts from well-wishers.

Pedro was holding an iPhone — which had a steady stream of texts rolling up the screen, so many that Pedro simply couldn’t keep up reading them.

“Everybody and anybody in American judo that has ever touched my life, Kayla’s life or my father’s life,” Pedro said, when asked who’s been calling. “They’ve been waiting for this moment their entire lives.”

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

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LUCKY CHARMS

Maybe it was the socks.

U.S. judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison is superstitious, so she made sure things were exactly how she wanted them at the London Games.

“I’m big on ritual and I’m big on patterns and I get comfortable,” Harrison said. “And when I get comfortable, I get confident. And when I get confident, I win.”

So when coach Jimmy Pedro needed to pick a suit for Thursday’s matches, he and Harrison decided that he shouldn’t wear the USA Judo one that failed to deliver Olympic gold earlier in the tournament. He went instead with his opening ceremony outfit.

Harrison, meanwhile, wore the lucky socks that her grandmother gave her six years ago and played her lucky playlist.

Now she’s got another lucky charm — Olympic gold.

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

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WATCHING TV

What do NBC researchers know about Americans? Plenty.

They have found that people who know the results of London Olympics events before they see it on a tape delay are more not less likely to watch them.

Huh?

NBC has been criticized for not televising live some marquee London events like swimming and gymnastics. Still, the U.S. broadcaster has been getting far better ratings for the London Games than it ever expected, outpacing the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

— David Bauder — Twitter http://twitter.com/dbauder

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BUTTON IT!

If Helen Mirren can’t get Britain’s notoriously rowdy cycling crowd to zip it, who can?

The woman whose icy glare in “The Queen” buckled knees in theaters all over the globe is one of several famous British faces who appears on a quick video that is played sporadically at the Velodrome to quieten the crowd before the start of a race.

Mirren, actor Simon Pegg and musician Gary Barlow are among those shown holding their finger to their lips and giving a loud “Shhhhhh!”

In one of the versions, Mirren is the last face to appear. She leans forward slightly and sternly says, “Button it.”

It’s worked every time.

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

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QUIVERING LIP

Winning gold doesn’t get old.

With his lip quivering slightly, Michael Phelps looked liked he was really appreciating the moment Thursday night as the U.S. anthem played to celebrate his first individual gold of the London games, in the 200-meter individual medley.

With this, Phelps becomes the first man to win the same indvidual event in three straight Olympics. That makes for 20 overall Olympic medals in his career, 16 of them gold.

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

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QUICKQUOTE: RISING STAR

“I don’t ever recall anybody this quickly rising from an average good gymnast to a fantastic one.” — U.S. women’s national team coordinator Martha Karolyi on gold medalist Gabby Douglas’ rapid ascent to the top of the sport.

Douglas won Olympic gold in the women’s all-around on Thursday.

— Mark Long — Twitter http://twitter.com/apmarklong

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NO HAPPY FACE

Russian gymnasts Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina both said they were pleased with their silver and bronze medals after the women’s all-around competition.

Yet their body language said the exact opposite.

Komova broke into tears when the final scores were posted and shoved her silver medal in her left pocket after the ceremony.

When asked why, she rolled her eyes, and Mustafina said something to her in Russian. Komova said something brief and a translator replied the medal was in her pocket because “it is heavy.”

So why the long face?

“I’m still upset because I could have been gold and I didn’t get it,” Komova said through a translator.

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

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CHINESE RESTRAINT

China has two gold medals in two days in Olympic table tennis — and two silver medals to boot.

In other sports — and in other nations — that would call for chest-bumping, high-fiving and raucous celebrations. At least, a few smiles.

None of that from Zhang Jike, who defeated teammate Wang Hao in Thursday’s men’s singles final. Zhang’s lone hint of happiness, celebrating his first Olympic gold medal, lasted about as long as a good pingpong rally.

Table tennis apparently is seen in China as the ultimate team game. Beating a friend and teammate calls for restraint and respect.

After the winning point to take the match 4-1, Zhang leaped over a barrier surrounding the playing area, raced to the medal podium and kneeled down and kissed the top platform designated for the gold medalist.

That was the beginning and the end of it.

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

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GET YOUR OLIVES HERE!

Forget peanuts and Cracker Jack. There’s an entirely different sort of treat for sale at kiosks outside the Olympic Stadium: olives.

That’s right: Only steps from the arena, gourmet olives of all sorts — large, pitted green ones stuffed with hot red peppers or black ones marinated with herbs, etc., etc. — can be scooped out of bowls and into clear plastic containers with lids.

There are two sizes of takeaway container available, including a small one for 2.50 pounds (about $3.85).

Who says stadium chow is the pits?

See an olive stand here: http://yfrog.com/nx1lxhhj

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

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FIT TO TIE

Aly Raisman could have used an extra point — or half point or even quarter point.

The American gymnast fell just short of a medal in the women’s all-around competition Thursday, losing a tiebreaker to Russian Aliya Mustafina.

Both scored 59.666 after four events, and the Olympic tiebreaker rules called for the lowest score in four events to be thrown out to see who had the highest three-event total. Mustafina edged Raisman for bronze.

U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said she expects the sanctioning body to change the rules in the future.

“You should award a medal for both gymnasts,” she said. “But rules are rules. I’m suspecting they will be taking away the tie-break for the next (Olympic cycle).”

How would that happen?

Karolyi said there has been talk about awarding quarter points, which would make ties less likely.

— Mark Long http://www.twitter.com/apmarklong

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PUSH IT NOW

There was something off about Gabby Douglas when she arrived at the London Games. Her coach, Liang Chow, knew she was physically hurting. Team coordinator Martha Karolyi thought Douglas’ focus was lacking. Karolyi knew something had to change.

“Chow and I had a big meeting and we had to address it,” Karolyi says. “She turned it around and we worked and worked and made it better. … There are key moments when you have to do something. That was a key moment.”

What did Chow tell Douglas to turn her around? “Chow told me ‘Everyone has pain so just go out there and why are you focused on that? You are at the Olympics so put that behind you and if you don’t push it now then you don’t have a chance.”

She adds: “So we had this little bit of a talk and it definitely hyped me up.”

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

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SOCIAL MEDIA GOLD

My iPhone was vibrating nonstop. Facebook notifications poured in. My Twitter account lit up.

I, Peter Wilson, had won an Olympic gold medal.

Or, so it seemed.

It turns out that a British Olympic shooter — also named Peter Wilson — had won the double trap event.

Unsurprisingly, social networks exploded with posts after Peter R.R. Wilson (coincidentally my middle name also begins with an ‘R’) won Britain’s fourth gold of the games.

Having your name as the top trend on Twitter is slightly surreal. After sarcastically tweeting that I had won a gold medal, someone asked me: “Wait? for what?”

Most people caught onto the joke — I am actually an AP sports intern — but I thoroughly enjoyed my 30 minutes of Twitter and Facebook fame.

—Peter Wilson, Twitter http://www.twitter.com/peterrwilson

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ALL YOU DO IS SWIM?

Watch U.S. water polo player Tony Azevedo for two minutes. You’ll see him backstroke, freestyle and breaststroke, all while trying to catch a ball with a British defender draped all over him.

Makes what Michael Phelps does in the pool seem rather ordinary.

The polo players have their own building at the London Games, right next door to their more celebrated counterparts.

The atmosphere in the arena is fantastic, with a packed house trading chants of “GB!” and “USA!” Azevedo had a hat trick before anyone else scored, but GB is making a game of it, 10-5 in the third quarter.

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

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QUICKQUOTE: BARRIER BREAKER

“I kind of forgot about that. Man, that’s awesome, that’s definitely an amazing feeling. I forgot about that” — Gabby Douglas on becoming the first black gymnast to win the gold medal in women’s all-around.

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

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RACE AND THE RACE

It was an Olympic scene like so many other celebrations by medal winners: fist-pumping, broad smiles, embraces. Except this team was from South Africa, and its members were both white and black.

The images of John Smith, a white rower, throwing his arms around black teammate Sizwe Ndlovu after their four-man crew won the gold Thursday in men’s lightweight four rowing shows how far this country — once banned from the Olympics because of its apartheid government — has come.

After the South Africans edged a British crew by 0.25 seconds, Ndlovu leaped into the arms of each of his crew.

Back home, national pride is superseding lingering racial divisions as South Africans cheer on their Olympic athletes and their (so far) three gold medals. One black woman in Johannesburg describes watching on TV as white South African Chad le Clos challenged Michael Phelps in the 200-meter butterfly and beat the American champion by five-hundredths of a second for the gold medal.

“I stood up from my chair and I was shouting, ‘Go! Go!,” Mary Jane Maharana says.

Eighteen years after white rule collapsed in South Africa, racial tensions still exist. Unemployment is high and the economy is controlled mostly by whites. Nelson Mandela’s efforts to unify South Africa under its Springboks rugby team during the 1995 World Cup notwithstanding, whites generally follow rugby and blacks tend to prefer soccer.

But these days, the Olympics are helping South Africans root together.

— Andrew O. Selsky in Johannesburg — Twitter http://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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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.