Eyes on London, Aug. 1 edition


Click HERE to check out the Daily Post's complete coverage of the 2012 Olympics, including Gwinnett athletes competing in the Summer Games.

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:


First you're getting a gold medal. Then you're on the phone with the president of the United States.

What a 24 hours.

President Barack Obama spoke to the American gymnasts after they won the gold Tuesday night. He spoke to each of them — Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas.

According to the White House, this is what the president said:

—To Raisman: "Michelle and have watched and decided of all the Olympians you guys amaze us the most."

—To Wieber: "I'm so impressed by how you bounced back and led the team. Tell your parents I'm proud of them too. I don't think I could watch if I were them."

—To Maroney: "Way to nail that vault. It was unbelievable."

—To Ross, whom he called "really steady": "I was impressed by how cool you were. I don't know how you do what you do, especially the balance beam."

—To Douglas: "You just tore it up. I know how hard you worked to get there." And, then: "Keep at it. Stay cool."

— Julie Pace — Twitter http://twitter.com/jpaceDC


NBC is raking in the Olympic gold: It now expects to break even on the London games rather than take a loss.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke says "We are way ahead of where we thought we'd be."

With London five hours ahead of New York, NBC isn't able to show any Olympic events live in U.S. prime time this year like it did with Michael Phelps' gold-medal swims at the 2008 Beijing games. But instead of the expected 20 percent ratings plunge compared with Beijing, Burke said NBC is seeing audiences up 9 percent so far.

Tuesday's Olympics telecast, featuring Phelps' record-setting swim and the gold-medal performance of the U.S. women's gymnastics team, had the highest rating of any Olympic night so far this year, according to the Nielsen ratings company.

Higher ratings translates into higher revenues from last-minute ads.

NBC paid $1.2 billion for the rights to show the games on TV and online in the U.S.

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


Located directly across from the Athletes Village, Westfield Mall seems to be the place the Olympians are flocking to during their time off. Many are wearing either official team gear or clothing that reveals their country.

It's the perfect place for people who don't have tickets to any events but want to enjoy some of the Olympic experience. Fans can stand at the top of the mall stairs and get a glimpse of the village, and wait to see athletes come up the escalator.

"I've met Australians, South Africans, seen all kinds of athletes," said Farrukh Jamal, who was taking pictures at the top of the steps. "This is the place to hang out."

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


Thierry Le Sommer traveled to Scotland to see his daughter play soccer for France — but was almost kicked out of the stadium for waving the flag of Brittany, northwestern France.

He says security officials wanted to take it off him and even threatened to call police.

The episode highlights a patriotic sore point at these carefully regulated Olympics. Instructions on all tickets advise spectators that they must not arrive in Olympic venues bearing "flags of countries not participating in the games."

We've now clarified what the rules are — and Le Sommer did nothing wrong.

The London organizing committee explained to The Associated Press that security officials should permit flags from "nations under the umbrella of participating countries." And they said that this extends to flags of regions, too.

— Shawn Pogatchnik — Twitter http://twitter.com/ShawnPogatchnik


Musician Paul Weller says it feels "great" to have inspired an Olympian — cycling gold medalist Bradley Wiggins of Britain.

Wiggins, who took gold in the men's time trial on Wednesday after winning the Tour de France last month, is both a champion athlete and a well-known mod, a follower of the sharp-suited music and fashion movement epitomized by Weller's former band, The Jam.

Wiggins has cited Weller as a hero, and Weller — nicknamed the "Modfather" — says it feels great to have inspired "a fellow stylist."

Weller told the AP just before Wiggins' Olympic victory that "it's just nice to see an Englishman win something. But he's great, he's at the top of his game, isn't he?"

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


British cyclist Bradley Wiggins has inspired a nation — to don sideburns.

Thousands of fans, men and women, boys and girls, taped fake hair to their cheeks in hopes of creating a winning karma for Wiggins, the Tour de France champ renowned for his scraggly sideburns.

"We all love Wiggo," said Wayne Coxon, a 39-year-old fan near Wednesday's finish line who had taped his own custom-made fur to his face for the occasion. "People have come from all over the country to be here."

Two rival British tabloids, the right-wing Sun and left-wing Daily Mirror, both sought to capture the British zeitgeist by turning their front pages into populist cut-outs of Wiggins' facial hair.

"HERE WIGGO! Help Bradley triumph by wearing his lucky sideburns with pride," the Mirror declared on its front page featuring a lifesize cutout of Wiggins' hair and ears.

The Sun offered readers a pair of "24-carat" sideburns colored gold for the occasion.

— Shawn Pogatchnik — Twitter http://twitter.com/ShawnPogatchnik


What's the deal with that Danell Leyva and his ever-present towel? Call it superstition.

The U.S. gymnast likes to pull the grayish-blue towel with stars on it over his head between events so he can maintain his focus and not get distracted. He used to have two, but one ripped so now he carries the same one everywhere he goes (yes, he does wash it).

Any doubts about the power of the towel were erased earlier this year at Winter Cup, a ranking meet for the U.S. men. Leyva forgot to pack the towel and had one of his worst meets in a long time, falling on parallel bars, where he's the reigning world champion, during qualifying, and high bar, his other best event. He wound up a distant fourth.

The towel has become so "famous" it now even has its own Twitter account: http://twitter.com/leyvastowel.

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


Ghada Hassine of Tunisia is now the first Olympic weightlifter to compete in a newly approved "unitard" that covers most of her body.

Rules requiring lifters to wear a costume that doesn't cover the arms and lower legs were changed last year. The U.S. had petitioned for a change on behalf of a Muslim lifter.

Hassine, 19, wore the unitard Wednesday under the traditional weightlifting outfit and a hijab covering her hair as she participated in the "B'' group of lower-ranked lifters in the women's 69-kilogram category. She cleared 102 kilograms in the snatch and 120 in the clean and jerk for a 220-kilogram total, putting her in second place before the top medal contenders had competed in the "A'' group.

— Karl Ritter — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/karl_ritter


It had to happen.

After a week of being asked about bikinis, Dutch beach volleyballer Reinder Nummerdor snapped at a reporter asking about the traditional women's uniform.

"I don't want to talk about that," he said with a dismissive wave of the hand. "It has nothing to do with our sport."

There has been a lot of attention on the women's outfits, especially in light of a new FIVB rule that allows shorts and T-shirts for those whose cultural beliefs would prevent them from wearing bikinis. (It is unrelated to the longtime rule that allows them to cover up in cold weather.)

The players have been largely tolerant of the questions.

American Kerri Walsh Jennings says people might come for the scantily-clad women, but once they see the sport they understand they are looking at world-class athletes.

But Nummerdor had enough, pointing out that the beach volleyball uniforms are not really any different than what sprinters wear and — as far as the men are concerned — much less revealing than the swimmers' suits.

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


The congratulations keep rolling in for the women's gymnastics team. Here's what Jordyn Wieber just tweeted:

"Just talked to the President on the phone! Pretty much the coolest thing ever!!"

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


Here's the photo of London Mayor Boris Johnson stuck and dangling from the zip wire.

"Can you get me a rope? Get me a rope, okay?" he said.

And the crowds responded with laughter.

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


Over at the gymnastics, the public announcer wanted to make absolutely sure he'd got this one right. You know, there's been enough confusion already about North and South Korean flags.

As he introduced Kim Soo-myun, he hesitated, almost got it wrong — and then everything went silent.

The crowd started to laugh and applaud.

Then, in an assured tone, the nationality was finally given: South Korea!

"I am sure you would appreciate that i want to be absolutely sure," said the announcer, to much amusement.

He didn't know, presumably, that the North Koreans aren't even taking part in the gymnastics here. They were banned as punishment for a case of age falsification.

— Peter DeJong


"Don't be robotic!" That was the advice coming from Chinese basketball coach Bob Donewald to his players during practice Wednesday.

China has lost the first two games of the Olympics and Donewald is trying to get his players to loosen up and improvise as the game goes along.

They play Australia on Thursday, and desperately need a win to start validating all the changes Donewald has made since taking over the program three years ago.

"We need results," he says.

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

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.