EYES ON LONDON: Tweets, ping-pong diplomacy

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Associated Press

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 11:02 AM

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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TABLE TENNIS INTERLUDE

I'm getting so much cooperation from Ding Ning, one of the next generation of great Chinese female table-tennis players. She's outgoing, wants to talk with reporters — and even listens to journalists trying questions in Mandarin. New breed, really.

Quick history:

Zhang Yining won four gold medals in the last two Olympics. Wang Nan won four in three Olympics — 2000, 2004, 2008. And Deng Yaping started the string with four in 1992 and 1996.

Now comes 22-year-old Ding.

"I'm not so sure I can be like the others, but I'm trying," she said Monday after reaching the quarterfinals. "I know Zhang Yining very well. I train with her and I have learned so many things from her. ... Of course I really want to win the gold medal. But even if I don't win the medal, I have a long career in front of me and will have more chances."

And a confession: "If I get silver, I will feel a little bit disappointed."

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

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FOOD RUSH

The Westfield mall is the largest in Europe — but even they're having trouble coping with the tens of thousands of people who descend on it each day.

The sprawling complex, featuring upscale shops and restaurants, is right next to the Olympic Park and a convenient spot to gather, providing viewing areas of several venues even for fans who don't have tickets.

But the crush of people has made it tough to get a meal during peak hours. On Monday, a restaurant stopped putting in food orders for 30 minutes, saying it simply couldn't keep up with demand. "We didn't train enough people," a waitress said, apologizing for the delay.

A Caribbean fast-food stand also was overwhelmed by customers, some of whom gathered around the pickup counter to complain they had been waiting for more than a half-hour to get their orders. "I'm so sorry," said a woman working furiously to bring out food. "We're going as fast as we can."

Of course, the outrage was rather muted compared to what might be seen in other countries. In Britain, they don't get too worked up about anything, except maybe soccer.

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

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BRITS FALTER

Peter Waterfield says the dive that doomed Britain's chances of gold in the 10-meter platform was essentially his fault.

Waterfield and partner Thomas Daley were in first place halfway through the men's synchronized 10-meter platform. Then Waterfield says he kicked his feet out too far on their fourth dive, throwing it off and digging Britain too big a hole to climb out of.

Daley says the reverse 3 1/2 somersault is a dive the pair felt very comfortable trying.

"Normally it's one of our best dives," Daley says. "Today it just didn't seem right."

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

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NBC SIGHTING

The cigar gave him away.

The man puffing away in the sun outside the International Broadcasting Centre in Olympic Park? None other than longtime NBC Olympic boss Dick Ebersol.

Ebersol isn't running the show anymore, but he's back as an adviser with the network and likes what he sees in London so far.

"I think they're doing a great job," said Ebersol, who unexpectedly quit as NBC Sports chairman last year when negotiations on a new contract broke down.

Ebersol was in charge when London won the bid seven years ago and still has a close affinity with the city and organizing chief Sebastian Coe. These are the first games in two decades on NBC without him at the helm.

Ebersol said he's especially pleased with NBC's ratings for the opening ceremony — an audience of 40.7 million people, a record for any summer or winter Olympics, topping the previous mark of 34.9 million from the opening in Beijing in 2008.

NBC holds the U.S. Olympic rights through 2020.

— Stephen Wilson — Twitter http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap

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SWISS INSPIRATION

Roger Federer has often talked about his admiration for Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and other tennis greats. At the Olympics, Marc Rosset is on his mind.

A fellow Swiss, Rosset won the gold medal in singles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

"That was huge news in Switzerland," Federer, 30, said Monday at Wimbledon after defeating Julien Benneteau of France in the second round. "I definitely felt like I was inspired by that on an Olympic level."

Federer won gold in doubles with partner Stanislas Wawrinka at the 2008 games in Beijing, and he is aiming for gold in singles weeks after winning the Wimbledon title for a record-tying seventh time.

— Christopher Torchia

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JAPAN GYMNASTS

It's been a better showing so far for three-time defending world champion Kohei Uchimura in the men's gymnastics team finals. He had a rough time in qualifying, finishing ninth overall and uncharacteristically falling off the high bar.

But he's been steady through rings and the vault, earning a 15.133 and 15.900.

His teammate, Koji Yamamuro, wasn't as solid. He misfired on his vault, landed on his face, and hopped off the mat on one leg. He was scored a 14.033.

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

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LUCKY STRIKE

AP's Fergus Bell reports on the Olympics from the streets of London:

Chris Paul, U.S. men's basketball point guard from the Los Angeles Clippers, said it on Friday. "Bowling," he asserted, "should be an Olympic sport."

Bes Ljusta, manager of the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes, agrees. His alley has seen the likes of Coldplay and the Red Hot Chili Peppers walk through the door so he knows the sport has a certain amount of star appeal.

"It should definitely be an Olympic sport. There's so much for spectators to see," said the 31-year-old, who has lived in London for the last 14 years. "If you have archery, you should definitely have bowling. I would say this is much more exciting than someone shooting an arrow."

If bowling did one day make it into the games, Ljusta would have to probably accept a few changes: Bowling, he says, is always a more enjoyable experience with a beer in your hand.

See the Bloomsbury lanes here: http://www.whosay.com/fergusbell/photos/208886

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

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PING-PONG DIPLOMACY

The U.S. and North Korean women's soccer team have been bonding a little over pool and table tennis in the common room of their Glasgow hotel — despite not been able to communicate much due to a language barrier.

The Americans say they want to learn more about the North Koreans.

"From, like, a humane level, I want to know what their lives are like," said forward Abby Wambach. "And what they do for fun."

The teams' off-the-field routines have little in common. The Americans spend their free time shopping, sightseeing and eating out. But the North Koreans have been cloistered in their hotel.

Asked why his players don't get out and about, coach Sin Ui Gun — through the interpreter — gave three reasons: The training schedule is too busy, it rains too much, and the players like staying indoors.

"A few of us were talking about the bus ride here — what are the North Koreans doing on their bus?" Wambach said. "Honestly, do they have computers? Are they watching television shows like we are? What are they doing to be, like, normal? Sure, those questions cross our minds."

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

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BITTER TWEET

Politicians beware: those tweets can land you in hot water with your boss.

Prime Minister David Cameron has lambasted a lawmaker in his own Conservative Party. Aidan Burley called the Olympic opening ceremony "multicultural leftie crap."

"I did once say something about people who use Twitter, particularly politicians, and I think in this case I was absolutely spot on," Cameron told the BBC on Monday. "It was an idiotic thing to say."

Burley, who was forced to quit as a ministerial aide after attending a Nazi-themed bachelor party last year, made the tweet during the show on Friday: "The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen - more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?"

Later, he added: "Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multicultural crap. Bring back red arrows (sic), Shakespeare and the Stones!"

— Paisley Dodds — Twitter http://twitter.com/paisleydodds

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WATER RINGS

Eleven meters high and 24 meters long, they dominate the view from the south bank of the River Thames in central London. "It is kind of showy," says Shanice Collins, 19, from Birmingham.

The structure sits on a barge in the middle of the river where throngs of tourists walk past every day, making it very difficult for anyone to ignore the fact that the Olympics are in town.

Shanice thinks they are a good thing, though. She seems especially worried about London's recent bad press. "If it makes the city look good and it doesn't give us that bad riot mentality that everyone thinks we have, then I think it is a good thing."

See them here: http://www.whosay.com/fergusbell/photos/208868

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

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CHINA DIVING GOLD

Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang of China are the gold medal winners in the men's synchronized 10-meter dive.

The Chinese trailed the hometown Brits after three dives, but executed nearly flawlessly in the second half of the event. The partisan crowd was hopeful to see the hometown team of Thomas Daley and Peter Waterfield keep the gold in London. They drilled their first three, leading at the halfway point while being serenaded to chants of "GB! GB! GB!"

But a rough fourth dive score of 71.28 opened the door for China. The crowd even booed the judges for giving their boys an 87.69 on their fifth dive. Mexico took the silver and the American team of Nicholas McCrory and David Boudia finished with the bronze. Britain finished fourth.

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

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JORDAN'S FIRST PUNCH

Ihab Almatbouli is Jordan's first Olympic boxer, and now he has his nation's first Olympic boxing victory.

Almatbouli won a 19-7 decision over Nigeria's Lukmon Lawal at ExCel on Wednesday, thrilling the small delegation of Jordanian athletes and fans cheering him on and singing to him.

He is the second of five boxing brothers from Baqa'a, a Palestinian refugee camp outside Amman. Somber after his workmanlike victory, he credited God and his Cuban coach. Still, the wolf tattoo on his right bicep suggests Almatbouli might have a little more flair in store for his next fight.

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

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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

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