EYES ON LONDON: Swimming and excited Olympic fans

By The Associated Press

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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SPARKLING SMILE

Those aren’t pearly whites sparkling when U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte breaks out a smile. They’re diamonds.

Lochte popped in his grillz — diamond-studded mouth jewelry — for the victory ceremony after winning a gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley.

And Lochte is hoping to win some more medals to go with his precious stones.

“This is my year,” Lochte said. “I know it and I feel it, because I’ve put in hard work. I’ve trained my butt off for four years … and there’s no better way to start this Olympics off than getting gold.”

— Paul Newberry — Twitter www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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WIN BY WALKOVER

Algerian boxer Mohamed Ouadahi won his opening Olympic bout without throwing a punch when his Georgian opponent, Merab Turkadze, couldn’t make weight this morning.

The thing is, amateur boxers are still required to climb into the ring to get their hands raised even when they win by walkover. Ouadahi wore a grin when the ExCeL crowd — not knowing this weird tradition — booed the Georgian’s unexplained absence and then sarcastically roared for Ouadahi’s easiest victory.

Ouadahi laughed and flexed his right bicep in appreciation.

— Greg Beacham — Twitter http://twitter.com/gregbeacham

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LUCKY SEVEN HOPES

Jorgen Persson hopes the seventh time is lucky.

The Swede is one of three players to have appeared in every Olympic table tennis tournament, beginning with the first one in 1988. But he’s yet to win a medal. He advanced to the second round on Saturday, defeating Segun Toriola of Nigeria 4-1.

That’s a perfect start for a guy who’s lost twice in the Olympic semifinals in 2000 and 2008 — and then lost both bronze medal games.

“When you have these two opportunities to reach finals and lose — tough moments. … This is my last chance. I will not get any more chances.”

Persson has said that several times. “This is definitely the last,” he repeated. “Rio is too far away.”

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

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AQUATIC INTERLUDE

“That piece of cardboard in your hands won’t be worth anything in two hours. Just remember that. Worth nothing!” — a man outside the aquatics center trying to get someone to sell him one of their prized tickets. He was right, but what a ride unfolded minutes later: In the first big showdown of the games, the U.S.’s Ryan Lochte won the 400 individual medley, and teammate Michael Phelps came in fourth.

— Tim Dahlberg — Twitter http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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TEXTBOOK SWIMMING

Eric “the Eel” Moussambani made being bad at the Olympics good. Or cool, anyway.

Jackson Niyomugabo will continue the tradition of unlikely Olympic swimmers when the Rwandan competes in the 50-meter freestyle this week in London. He learned his sport from a French textbook and by watching meets on TV because he didn’t have a coach.

“The Eel” gained worldwide fame by struggling in the 100 free at the Sydney Olympics. While he honed his skills back home in Equatorial Guinea in a hotel swimming pool and sometimes a river, Niyomugabo trains in Lake Kivu, the shimmering body of water that separates Rwanda from Congo.

His most precious tool is easily the book titled “The Secrets of Swimming Development.”

And although it’s in French, and Niyomugabo doesn’t read French, he compares the illustrations in it with what he sees on television and goes from there.

“My main coach all my life has been this book,” says the 24-year-old Niyomugabo, a two-time Olympian. “It was an extremely difficult way to learn. I would sit for hours … staring at the TV.”

But a lack of coach hasn’t stopped him. He swam in Beijing, where he didn’t make it past the preliminaries but has higher hopes this time. Way higher.

“I want to win a medal this time,” he says. “And why not?”

— Gerald Imray — Twitter http://twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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QUITE A VIEW

Early in these games, one of the most popular places in Olympic Park has been atop a grassy hill where the Olympic rings stand and overlook the park. It’s a breathtaking view, and there were long lines throughout the day Saturday as visitors scaled the hill to get their pictures taken under the rings.

“It’s spectacular,” says Karen Kennedy, who came from Chicago with her teenage sons Stratford and Robert. “It’s just a shock that this oasis is here in a bustling urban area.”

See the view here: http://yfrog.com/kj5xczzj

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

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ONE OF THE GUYS

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attended the Russian women’s volleyball match against Britain at Earls Court on Saturday afternoon. Surrounded by dark-suited, earphone-clad secret service, Medvedev even joined the crowd in doing the wave.

It didn’t have any impact on the match, but the Russian women won 3-0 anyway.

— Anne M. Peterson — Twitter http://twitter.com/anniempeterson

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POOL: WORLD RECORD

A new world record Saturday night: Ye Shiwen of China sets it on the way to winning Olympic gold in the women’s 400 IM.

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

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CELEB INTERLUDE

AP’s Jenna Fryer reports from the streets of London:

Wandering through SoHo after a beach volleyball session where we just missed Sir Paul McCartney, we came upon a large crowd lining both sides of a small alley.

There were people hanging out of windows with cameras. Curious, we joined the crowd.

Rumors circulated that Madonna was about to exit the building, or Jude Law was about to arrive. But when the black sedan pulled up, out popped Keith Urban, followed by wife Nicole Kidman. The crowd pounced on the car, blocking it in on three sides.

“Nicole! Nicole!” people shouted. But she never turned, and they jeered Kidman as she entered the House of St. Barnabas-In-SoHo for the launch of The Omega House. (Not the one from “Animal House,” and Doug Marmalard wasn’t there. It’s the watchmakers’ promotional headquarters for the Olympics.)

We asked who else might be arriving, and were told singer Pixie Lot. With that, we headed to dinner. See Kidman’s appearance here: http://pic.twitter.com/k96LWDUr

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

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PHOTO OP, FOOD OP

American 16-year-old Ariel Hsing was tickled about reaching the second round in table tennis on Saturday. But meeting Michelle Obama on Friday might have been even better.

“She was really nice,” the Californian said of the first lady. “She gave me a hug and we took pictures.”

Hsing says she also mugged for photo with Michael Phelps and Kobe Bryant. But meeting Michelle Obama was “the biggest.” lAnd, of course, the food.

“The Olympics village is so cool. There is so much food there, which I really like.” Spoken like a true teenager.

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

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HAPPY ODDSMAKERS

There were some pretty sad-looking people cycling out of central London after Mark Cavendish failed in his bid to win the men’s road race.

But at least one group of Brits must be grinning from ear to ear Saturday: the bookmakers.

I bet (sorry) they took a lot of cash on the misfiring Manx Missile. They must surely have cleaned up Friday night when opening ceremony director Danny Boyle picked seven unknown young athletes to light the Olympic cauldron instead of heavily favored four-minute-miler Roger Bannister.

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

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PRESSURIZED

U.S. women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma on the pressure that comes with a 34-game winning streak in the Olympics: “Some day, maybe it’s Monday, maybe Wednesday, maybe Friday, Sunday, who knows, the United States is going to lose in the Olympics. … I’ll be disappointed for those players. But the pressure’s there whether you worry about it or not.”

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

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BRITAIN, NOT YANKS

The Olympics opening ceremony dwarfed the Red Sox-Yankees game for viewership in the New York market. The Yankees’ 10-3 win Friday night was seen by an average of 335,000 viewers on the YES Network while the Olympics were viewed by an average of 2,634,000 on WNBC, according to YES.

— Ronald Blum — Twitter http://twitter.com/ronaldblum

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LOCHTE, NOT PHELPS

A U.S. win in swimming just now: Ryan Lochte wins United States’ first gold of the London Olympics in the 400 IM. Michael Phelps comes in fourth.

— Paul Newberry — Twitter http://twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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‘ABSOLUTE BLAST’

“Isn’t beach volleyball fun? The crowd has an absolute blast and the players don’t take any of it too seriously.” — Michael Rothwell from Wimbledon, who was watching beach volleyball with three male friends — all clad in bikini tops and shorts.

See him and his friends here: http://img.ly/llhV

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

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TRAFFIC JAM

The Uruguayan soccer team is looking for a new mode of transport.

It took them about 7 1/2 hours to go by coach from Manchester to London this week — about three hours more than normal.

“There was a lot of traffic and the bus barely moved on the highway. I don’t know what happened, I imagine it was a result of the games,” says coach Oscar Tabarez.

Uruguay’s players then spent three hours on their feet in Friday’s opening ceremony, leaving Tabarez to order them to take a nap on Saturday.

— Paul Logothetis — Twitter http://twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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GUEST APPEARANCE

Paul McCartney made a cameo at Horse Guards Parade, where he watched two matches of Saturday’s opening day. He left his seats, though, right before Britain’s men’s match against Canada began.

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

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KEEPING IT NATURAL

At the London Olympics in 1908, gold medalists were presented, alongside their medals, with something rather British indeed. The king and queen would present winners with a glass-fronted box of oak leaves from Windsor Castle.

One of those gifts, presented to British wrestler George de Relwyscow, is now on display at the British library as part of an Olympics exhibition. The leaves inside are still intact, but they don’t look as lush as they perhaps did on July 25, 1908.

Check it out here: http://www.whosay.com/fergusbell/photos/208240

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

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CATCH UP OVER A CUPPA

First Lady Michelle Obama has had a private meeting with Samantha Cameron, wife of Britain’s prime minister, after both women attended Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony.

Mrs. Obama met with Mrs. Cameron for a cup of tea at Winfield House, the home of the U.S. ambassador to London, set in lavish grounds at leafy Regent’s Park.

Aides to the British leader’s wife said the two met for a “catch up” for about 45 minutes.

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

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TAR HEEL BLUE

The easiest thing to notice upon walking into the gym at the University of East London, where the U.S. men’s basketball team is practicing, is the color of the walls.

They are a familiar shade to U.S. college sports fans: the light blue of the North Carolina Tar Heels.

And if you think that would bother U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, since North Carolina is the chief rival of the Duke team he coaches, then you don’t know Coach K very well.

Krzyzewski wants to beat all teams, so no one is any more important than another. It’s a mentality he carries into his role with USA Basketball.

“It lends itself to this type of thinking since I’ve been national coach, because we’re supposed to win every game and we want to win every game, so why not prepare that way for each opponent?” Krzyzewski says.

The first one on Sunday is France — coincidentally also known as “Les Bleus.”

— Brian Mahoney — http://twitter.com/briancmahoney

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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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LOUSY SHOPPERS

They might be world-class athletes, but they’re apparently lousy shoppers.

A smattering of Olympians have been doing some window shopping at the Westfield Mall on the edge of Olympic Park, rubbing shoulders with thousands of fans and workers at the gleaming consumer’s paradise. Only problem: They don’t buy anything.

“I am just here to look,” Marouane M’rabet, a Tunisian volleyballer, explained apologetically to a sales clerk who had spent the last five minutes rubbing a sample bottle of massage oil onto his forearm.

After he and a teammate walked off, the woman explained the problem.

“They aren’t allowed to bring any liquids into the Athletes’ Village,” she said, a reference to tight security measures at the closed-off complex where the Olympians are housed. “So they never buy anything.”

— Paul Haven — Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/paulhaven

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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