EYES ON LONDON: Putin, black belt, at judo

The Associated Press
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Russian President Vladmir Putin, left and British Prime Minister David Cameron watch the judo during the women's 78-kg judo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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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HOSTING PUTIN

David Cameron knows how to be a good host.

The British prime minister took Russian President Vladimir Putin to see the Olympic judo competition on Thursday — but joked there's no way he would step onto the tatami with his tough-guy counterpart.

Putin has been a judo competitor since childhood, eventually gaining the rank of black belt.

Cameron, who prefers jogging, tennis and horse-riding, insisted the two leaders wouldn't be grappling themselves.

"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 talks at Downing Street to head to the Olympic competition.

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

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AN ALL-CHINA FINAL

Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan played Thursday's pingpong semifinal against Wang Hao of China. Chuang lost, meaning Wang will face compatriot Zhang Jike in an all-China final.

Had Chuang won, it would have added a bit of politics into the mix.

Taiwan is a self-governing democratic island, which split from China amid civil war in 1949. China, however, regards Taiwan as a renegade province. A final between China and Taiwan would have raised all kinds of interesting questions.

For example: Large parts of the world would not have seen it as an all-China final, though that's certainly how China would have seen it.

Taiwan doesn't even get to use its flag or real name in the Olympics, where it is identified as "Chinese Taipei."

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

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IT'S OVER

Canada's Marie-Andree Lessard left no doubt: She's done playing beach volleyball on the big stage.

After an 0-3 Olympics with partner Annie Martin, it's time to walk away — and Lessard is more than ready for the next phase of her life. First, she'll rest and cheer on the rest of her Olympic countrymen and women.

"This is it," she says. "That is it at a high level for sure. Maybe we'll play at a campground."

The Canadian pair didn't go out without making things interesting for the heavily favored Italians at Horse Guards Parade, pushing their match to three sets.

"We'll see how we can give to this place and make it a better world," says the 35-year-old, Guatemalan-born Lessard.

Anything left to check off her volleyball resume?

"No!"

— Janie McCauley — Twitter http://twitter.com/janiemccAP

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ITALIAN ICE

Greta Cicolari keeps seeing those boot-shaped ice baths the American men's beach volleyball players count on to heal their muscles after matches.

The Italian, who wrapped a large ice bag around her left knee and then right shoulder Thursday, is open to the idea of adding that element to her training-room routine. It must work if the U.S. is doing it, right?

"It's a secret of the Americans," Cicolari says.

Told that 300-pound NFL players jump into such tubs all in a row in the United States, she was intrigued.

"In Italy we don't have that, so it's strange to see," she says, noting that she might try one out. "I don't know when, but I'd like to."

— Janie McCauley — Twitter http://twitter.com/janiemccAP

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DOWN TO THE SHOES

Are those basketball shoes or moon boots on the feet of Australian guard Patty Mills?

Mills is jazzing up the Olympics with some neon yellow Nikes that could probably be seen from Down Under.

They did the trick on Thursday when Mills and the Australians won their first game of pool play, an easy 20-point victory over China.

"I love 'em," coach Brett Brown said with a smile. "I wish our whole team would wear them. They draw a lot of attention, that's for sure. Whatever works."

Check them out here, or look away now: www.yfrog.com/j2qepzxnj

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

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'THE HUNTED' SPEAKS OUT

Australian hurdler and defending world champion Sally Pearson has strong opinions on many subjects. She's just touched on Usain Bolt, American Lolo Jones, the Jamaican sprinters — and herself.

— Although she believes athletics needs Bolt to be successful, she predicted a Jamaican sweep would be led by Yohan Blake.

— Jones deserves the attention she gets, but Dawn Harper should be in the spotlight because she's the defending gold medalist.

— Pearson believes she's fit enough to win the 100 hurdles, and had swagger in declaring herself "the hunted."

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

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FLICKERING FLAME

The cauldron is burning bright at 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium, where athletics (aka track and field) begins Friday — and that famous flame is flickering everywhere around the arena, thanks to the video boards showing it.

Apparently it's not enough to just have the real deal on hand, standing at one end, where it was moved after being on the grass infield during the opening ceremony.

The screens constantly carrying close-ups of the cauldron are reminiscent of the fake fireplace that NBC used on its sets for broadcasts from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Trying to lend studio segments a warm and cozy feel, the network set up a screen that showed video of a fire, replete with wafting smoke.

See the cauldron here: http://yfrog.com/esk7sjdwj

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

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PUTIN AT THE JUDO

Just in: Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned up for the judo competition in south London. The Russian leader has been a judo competitor since childhood and gained the rank of black belt.

His interest in sports is well-known and varied — he's driven race cars, is a soccer fan, enjoys downhill skiing and in recent years has tried to add ice hockey to his athletic repetoire.

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

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BLOWBACK

Heavy winds are playing havoc with spinnakers at the Olympic sailing venue in Weymouth, southwest England.

Several teams racing in the 470 class had to release their spinnaker sheets — the lines they use to control the large sail in the front — and let the sail flap just to keep their boats upright. Others saw their spinnakers blow back upon their mainsail and jib, impeding their progress.

At the 4th mark, the British team is leading. Is that local knowledge kicking in?

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

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CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

It's not easy catching up with the fastest man in the world. Just ask tennis star Novak Djokovic who's been searching in vain.

He's probably wasting his time. An Olympic official hinted Thursday that Usain Bolt is not staying in the athletes village. It's not so much a question of Bolt preferring swankier accommodations. As one of the highest-profile athletes in these games, it would be difficult for him to move around without attracting large crowds.

It's a big city, and he's no slouch. But he's got to turn up somewhere, right?

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

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YI GOES DOWN

China's already slim chances in men's basketball just took a serious blow when star forward Yi Jianlian went down with a knee injury.

Yi appeared to twist his right knee late in a loss to Australia on Thursday.

Yi had to be helped off the floor by teammates and he was still limping badly when the game was over.

Chinese coach Bob Donewald says it's too soon to tell how serious the injury is. Yi will be examined by doctors later in the afternoon.

Yi, an NBA player, played most recently for the Dallas Mavericks.

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

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QUICKQUOTE: ANN ROMNEY

"She was consistent and elegant. She did not disappoint. She thrilled me to death." — Ann Romney to The Associated Press after her horse Rafalca's Grand Prix dressage test.

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

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CANDY!

Another day, another Olympics security check. It feels like you're in permanent airport mode. Off comes the belt, out comes the laptop, no liquids.

A security worker at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross, site of Thursday's canoe slalom events, brightened the mood by tossing out candy and yelling "Come on. Have a sweet! It's all part of the Olympic experience!"

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

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QUICKQUOTE: PARENTAL ADVICE

"Without sounding like a parent, which I am, I would say, 'Drink wisely.'" — IOC spokesman Mark Adams on the Australian who was detained in an incident police say was related to alcohol.

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WET FIELD

With every step or swipe of the stick, a rooster-tail like stream of water splashes up from the blue turf at Riverbank Arena

The field hockey surface is kept heavily watered down to keep the ball from bouncing, and workers use water guns before each game to ensure the turf is wet enough.

It creates the appearance of a soaking wet sponge that's constantly being squeezed.

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

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LOVE OF THE GAME

Among those in the crowd Thursday for the U.S. vs. Australia women's hockey game: an NCAA referee and a family that cut short their vacation to see the game.

Sandie Inglis, an NCAA referee since 1990, waved her American flag high before settling into her seat. She views the game far more in-depth than the casual fan. "The turf is very fast, and at the international level, you expect to see finer skills, and execution with speed and great control," Inglis says.

She was seated next to the Matousek family from Wilmette, Ill. They'd been vacationing in Paris when they learned they could get tickets to field hockey, a game both their teenage daughters play.

"It's fast paced and it's fun, but I think it's more fun to play than watch," said 15-year-old Nicole.

Glimpse the hockey pitch here: http://bit.ly/NnMgFH

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

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BADMINTON INQUIRY

The disgraced badminton players who have been dismissed from the Olympics aren't the only ones who could face penalties related to games being dumped to get more favorable matchups in later rounds.

Mark Adams says the IOC has asked the Olympic committees of both nations to look into whether other officials, including coaches, should face discipline as well.

Two teams from South Korea, one from China and another from Indonesia were disqualified from the competition for trying to lose games.

Adams says it is up to the committees to determine if more sanctions are necessary.

"We're working together with all of them and just making sure also that it isn't just the athletes being punished," Adams says.

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

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SERVING FEDERER

John Isner is one of the few who can say he's beaten Roger Federer. Now he has to do it again and on an Olympic stage, no less.

Isner faces Federer on Thursday on Centre Court at Wimbledon, which has been Federer's stomping ground for the better part of a decade. The Swiss superstar has won a record-tying seven Wimbledon titles, so he feels right at home in the London Games.

To advance, Federer will have to handle the 6-foot-9 Isner's mammoth serve.

"We know he's got one of the best serves on tour, if not the best," Federer says. "That obviously makes it complicated getting into rallies, into rhythm. That's grasscourt tennis."

Isner is 1-3 in his career against Federer.

"He's the hottest guy on the tour, he's back to No. 1 in the world," Isner says. "I'm going to have to serve well."

— Christopher Torchia

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POST-RIDE PARTY

He rode. Then he cut loose.

After winning the time trial for his seventh Olympic medal, cyclist Bradley Wiggins marked the moment by getting "blind drunk." It was a very public binge, with Wiggins posting messages and pictures on Twitter as he celebrated gold near St. Paul's Cathedral.

"Getting wasted," he tweeted, accompanied by a picture in which he was posing with a drink and flicking the V for victory sign.

And Wiggins wasn't slowing down.

Later, the Tour de France champion tweeted: "Blind drunk at the minute ... it's been emotional."

British Olympic chief Colin Moynihan says Wiggins was "thoroughly entitled to have a fantastic party."

— Rob Harris — Twitter http://twitter.com/robharris

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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.