EYES ON LONDON: Pistorius through, swans evicted

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By The Associated Press, Associated Press

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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PISTORIUS ADVANCES

Oscar Pistorius has just made history as the first amputee to compete on the track at an Olympics, finishing second in his 400-meter heat Saturday to advance to the next round.

Pistorius was born without fibulas and his legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old.

— Eddie Pells Twitter http://www.twitter.com/epells

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FAST TRACK

There's already plenty of buzz at Olympic Stadium about how fast the London Games track is: The PA announcer told the crowd Saturday morning that 52 personal bests and 12 national records were set on Day 1.

And the best men haven't started sprinting yet.

Their time comes Saturday, when Olympic champion and world-record holder Usain Bolt, world champion Yohan Blake and the rest of the men's 100 field are set to run their heats.

The dash semifinals and final are Sunday night.

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

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SWAN LAKE

As the triathletes power across Hyde Park's Serpentine lake Saturday, spare a thought for the swan families plucked out of harm's way.

Organizers say the lake's three resident swan couples — and their young cygnets — were temporarily relocated last week at the behest of the park's wildlife officer. "This decision has been made for the protection and safety of the birds during this busy time," a spokeswoman said in an email, adding that the birds were being cared for by a charity called Swan Lifeline.

— Raphael Satter — Twitter http://raphae.li/twitter

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ROWING IN THE RAIN?

Rowers will have to overcome some nasty conditions to win gold in the last four finals of the Olympic regatta on Saturday.

Spectators are huddling under umbrellas and braving strong winds as they sit in the packed grandstands ahead of four 'A' finals to close the regatta — in the men's four, the lightweight women's double sculls, the lightweight men's double sculls and the women's single sculls.

Apart from the odd random shower, the weather has generally been benign at Dorney Lake for the eight-day Olympic meet. The forecast was for the conditions to improve for the start of the finals at 11:30 a.m.

Organizers say they will postpone racing only if there is thunder and lightning.

— Steve Douglas — Twitter http://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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QUICKQUOTE: JUST SAYING

"Americans got a bit of a problem for the Olympics the last 20 years. They've got great guys, great athletes, but they can't win gold in the Olympics. Sorry." — Shot put gold medalist Tomasz Majewski of Poland on the Americans' 16-year, gold-medal drought in the event.

— Mark Long — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/APMarkLong

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MEDAL TARGET, ON TRACK?

One down, 29 to go.

The United States earned its first medal at the Olympic track Friday night when Reese Hoffa took bronze in the shot put.

A great moment for Hoffa, whose seventh-place finish four years ago was part of an overall disappointing Olympics for the U.S. — only 23 medals — that led to a top-to-bottom review of the U.S. track program. That led to what's now famously — or infamously — called "Project 30."

The goal: 30 medals at the London Olympics. The mark was set by Doug Logan, the former CEO, who has since been fired. His successor has embraced the goal, but with the caveat that 30 would be quite a reach.

There are six finals Saturday — six medal opportunities — and the Americans have contenders in almost all of them, the most notable being Carmelita Jeter in the women's 100.

The smart money here says the U.S. must come out of Day 2 on the track with a total of at least five medals to be on pace for 30.

— Eddie Pells — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/epells

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CARTWHEELS OF JOY

The U.S. women's soccer team has revealed that gold medalist Gabby Douglas was the inspiration behind their cartwheeling goal celebration.

"Before the game we were talking about what we could do for a celebration, and I was like 'cartwheels for everybody," said Abby Wambach who scored in the 27th minute, sparking the eye-catching routine.

"We obviously don't do it quite as well," she added.

The New Zealand coach didn't sound too impressed. "I wouldn't like it if our team did that, when teams concede and they're disappointed and they want to get on with the game," Tony Readings said.

"But it's obviously something the Americans do. ... It's something I guess they work on in training."

The Americans don't think they're rubbing anyone the wrong way.

"I'm not a psychologist," said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. "We score goals, and you're happy. What the players want to do, whatever they do, it has to be fun. If they come up with ideas, that's perfectly fine."

— Joseph White — Twitter http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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SHARAPOVA VS. SERENA

It's Maria vs. Serena for Olympic gold at Wimbledon. Does it get any better?

Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams meet on Saturday for the Olympic title, with both looking to add one of the highest accolades in sports to their career grand slams.

Williams has already won two golds in doubles with her sister Venus. But she's never won the singles title at the Olympics.

Sharapova has beaten Serena Williams just twice in their 10 meetings, but Williams tried to shrug off the pressure of chasing a gold medal.

"I don't feel like I'm missing anything," she says. "I feel like if I were to retire last week, I would be fine."

—Christopher Torchia

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HERE COMES BOLT

After a week of waiting, Usain Bolt is ready to take London by storm, the same way he did in Beijing in 2008. The Jamaican sprinter set world records in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay, an accomplishment that had never been done before. Now he gets to hit the fast track in Olympic Stadium.

This time he comes into the games having lost to teammate Yohan Blake in the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican trials. Throw in Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay in a blink-and-you'll-miss-them field of sprinters, and this promises to be quite a showdown.

"I'm thinking this could easily be one of the fastest 100 meters anybody has ever seen, because these guys have shown a lot of potential throughout the season," Bolt says. "There are guys that have been running fast, especially because it's an Olympic year."

—Eddie Pells — Twitter http://www.twitter.com/epells

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BLAZING SPEEDS

Is it the track?

Seven female sprinters, led by world champion Carmelita Jeter's time of 10.83 seconds, ran the first round of the 100 in 11 seconds or better Friday.

That was two more than did it over the entire meet in Beijing four years ago, and this time, there are still the semifinals and the gold-medal race to go.

Of course, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake will also be looking to rev things up Saturday afternoon in the men's 100 heats.

Called Mondotrack, the surface has shock-absorbing material built into the bottom instead of the top, meaning the upper layer provides better traction. That, in turn, lets runners wear flatter spikes that don't dig into the track as much, allowing for quicker turnover.

"Is this track better than Beijing? Unfortunately, I don't have a concrete answer," said Amy Millslagle, vice president for Olympic operations at Dow, which provides materials for the track. "You simply can't answer that because there's such a human element involved, and you can't prove one track is faster than another."

— Eddie Pells — Twitter — www.twitter.com/epells

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PHELPS' LAST SWIM

After dazzling fans for more than a decade, Michael Phelps will swim his last race on Saturday, and there is a good chance that it will end the way most of his Olympic events have: with a gold medal.

Phelps will be swimming the butterfly leg of 4x100 medley relay, an event the U.S. men have never lost. The Americans are sending out an imposing quartet that includes three gold medalists — Phelps, freestyler Nathan Adrian and backstroker Matt Grevers — plus breaststroker Brendan Hansen, who won a bronze.

"I don't think Michael is going to let anything go wrong in that race," said Eric Shanteau, who swam on the U.S. relay in Friday's prelims.

Indeed, it's unfathomable to think the Phelps era could end with anything less than another gold-medal performance.

"I thought it would hit me a lot harder than what it is right now," Phelps said Friday. "I guess a lot of those emotions haven't really come through my brain over the last week."

"Once I'm done," he added, "I think there's going to be a lot more emotion that really comes out."

— Paul Newberry — Twitter — www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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BLADE RUNNER'S MOMENT

Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa fought long and hard to be able to compete alongside the other sprinters at Olympic Stadium. Now he'll get his chance.

Pistorius takes to the track Saturday in the 400-meter preliminaries, facing a stacked field for a chance to advance to the semifinals. His legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old because he was born without fibulas. He will become the first amputee to compete on the track at the Olympics.

Some argue that the blades he runs on give him an unfair advantage. But Pistorius says that all he wants is a chance to run with everyone else. His best chance to medal could come as a part of the 4x400 relay team.

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

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POORLY TIMED AD

The ad by itself wouldn't have raised eyebrows: a monkey on gymnastics rings, a spot intended to introduce an upcoming NBC comedy called "Animal Practice."

But one of the times it was aired — right after a Bob Costas commentary on Gabby Douglas' gold medal inspiring other African-American girls to become gymnasts — pushed NBC to come forward and say the ad was poorly timed and not meant to offend.

The gymnastics-themed commercial was specifically timed to run late Thursday night following the women's gold medal competition. NBC said it was scheduled to run before the network knew about Costas' commentary.

"Much of America has fallen in love with Gabby Douglas," Costas said. "Also safe to say that there are some young African-American girls out there who tonight are saying to themselves, 'Hey, I'd like to try that, too.'"

Then NBC switched to the commercial with the small, widely grinning monkey on the rings. Blacks in the past have been disparagingly referred to as monkeys to the point where it is considered a common slur.

"Gabby Douglas' gold medal performance last night was an historic and inspiring achievement," NBC Universal spokeswoman Liz Fischer said. "The spot promoting 'Animal Practice,' which has run three times previously, is one in a series with an Olympic theme, which have been scheduled for maximum exposure. Certainly no offense was intended."

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

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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.

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