EYES ON LONDON: Elevated queen, giving up Twitter

July 25, 2012 - 8:41 AM
APTOPIX London Olympics

A couple pauses at the foot of a statue with the Olympic rings hung in the rafters of St. Pancras Station prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 24, 2012, in London. The opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics will be held Friday, July 27. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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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THE QUEEN WILL BE GETTING HIGH

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is about to scale new heights.

Royal officials say the queen will whiz to the top of London's Orbit tower during a visit to the Olympic Park on Saturday.

The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, will take in the panoramic views from atop the 115-meter (380-foot) landmark. The tower — a ruby red mass of twisting steel that some have likened to a crushed rollercoaster — has divided opinion: some say bold, others eyesore. The queen will be accompanied by her daughter Princess Anne — but not by her oldest son Prince Charles, a vocal opponent of edgy modern architecture.

The royals also are due to meet competitors and catering staff at the athletes' village.

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

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NO-TWITTER ZONE

What's Britain's star gymnast Louis Smith doing now that he's sworn off Twitter? Shaving his head, apparently.

Smith, who's become a crossover star since winning Britain's first Olympic medal in 80 years in Beijing, showed up for Wednesday's podium training freshly shorn, sporting a military-style flat top. Looks like he's cleaned up the facial hair, too.

Smith said Monday night that he's keeping away from Twitter for the rest of the games.

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

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VANTAGE POINT

There are always things happening in the athletes' village, but unless you have the correct accreditation you have no chance of seeing it.

Shoppers at the mall next door, though, have found a little loophole.

One of the entrances is elevated and faces out over the village. This means a constant crowd of shoppers and loiterers standing around in the prime position for a sight of the goings on.

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

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REMEMBERING MUNICH

Widows of two Israeli Olympians killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics hope silence will speak volumes at Friday's opening ceremony.

Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano are asking spectators to stand and hold a minute of silence when International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge rises to speak at Friday's ceremony. They say they want to show the IOC it was wrong to deny the athletes a spot on the program.

"They were killed at an Olympic venue. They should be honored there," said Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, who died in the Munich attack.

They have gathered more than 100,000 signatures for the moment of silence and count President Barack Obama among their supporters.

The IOC has decided against holding a moment of silence during London's opening ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian gunmen that killed 11 Israeli team members. Israeli and German government officials and the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee have urged the IOC to hold such an observance.

—Danica Kirka — Twitter http://twitter.com/danicakirka

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NO STRIKE

Lots of people are coming to London from overseas, and it now looks like they're going to have fewer problems getting in.

A British union has just called off a strike planned for Thursday by immigration staff at London's Heathrow Airport. Authorities had feared a walkout over pay and job losses would throw the Olympics into turmoil. Authorities this week urged the workers to consider the damage such action would inflict on Britain's image with the world watching.

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

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CARTOGRAPHIC CONUNDRUM

When it comes to the Olympics, geography can be politics.

Georgia's National Olympic Committee is fuming over two Russian athletes, born in what was then the Soviet Union's republic of Georgia, describing their place of birth as breakaway republics that Georgia and the international community do not recognize.

"Politics should not meddle in sports," says Georgiy Asanidze, a member of Georgia's Olympic Committee.

The games' official website lists Russian wrestler Besik Kudukhov's place of birth as "South Ossetia, Russia." The place of birth of another wrestler Denis Tsargush, born in the town of Gudauta, is also listed as Russia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia threw off most Georgian control in separatist wars in the 1990s, but Georgian authorities retained control of swaths of South Ossetia and a small piece of Abkhazia until the 2008 war with Russia. Afterward, Russia recognized their independence, as did Nicaragua, Venezuela and a handful of tiny Pacific nations.

—Misha Dzhindzikhashvili, Batumi, Georgia

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THE GREATEST

Will he? Won't he? British newspapers have buzzed with speculation that Muhammad Ali may have a role in London's Olympic Opening Ceremony on Friday.

The 1960 heavyweight boxing gold medalist and former world champion is in town this week, but looks far too frail to play a significant part in director Danny Boyle's spectacular on Friday night.

At an award ceremony on Tuesday, Ali was helped onto stage and sat largely motionless. Parkinson's disease has stolen the 70-year-old's once-world-beating strength and quick reflexes and frozen his beautiful face into a mask. Ali did not speak at the ceremony.

Among those who hope Ali will make an appearance, however brief, at the Opening Ceremony is Tyrone Monaghan. His father, Paddy, a bare-knuckle boxer, struck up a long friendship with Ali when both were younger. On visits to Britain, Ali regularly would drop by the Monaghans' house — to drink tea, chat and even spar with Tyrone.

"There are so many great things about him," Tyrone says of Ali. "You can't sum it up in one sentence."

—John Leicester — Twitter http://twitter.com/johnleicester

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WEASLEY'S TORCH

At least he'll be right at home with fire.

Among Wednesday's Olympic torch carriers through the streets of London: Rupert Grint, who played Harry Potter's faithful friend Ron Weasley in the Potter movies.

Grint, 23, will be carrying the torch briefly at Middlesex University shortly after lunch.

—Danica Kirka — Twitter http://twitter.com/danicakirka

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Wednesday marks the first day that London's usually aggressive drivers have to respect the unpopular "Games Lanes" — known informally as Zil lanes, after the Russian limos — or face a stiff fine.

There were fears of massive tie-ups as two-lane motorways were effectively cut in half to make way for the "Olympic family" vehicles allowed to use the special lanes, so many commuters seem to have switched to public transport to avoid the hassle.

On the A40 highway into central London, rush hour traffic was lighter than usual, and the Zil lane was completely empty save for a few black BMWs and a couple of truck drivers who didn't seem to have got the message.

As the road spilled onto Marylebone Road near Madame Tussauds wax museum, a large electronic sign told motorists they were free to use the Games Lanes at that point, but few ventured over the imposing double-width, solid line painted on the roadway for the Olympics period — despite the reassurances, they were apparently afraid that London's ubiquitous traffic cameras would cause them to be fined.

Eventually, as traffic slowed and a second sign said all lanes were open, drivers crossed the line and normal traffic patterns resumed.

—Greg Katz — Twitter http://twitter.com/Gregory_P_Katz

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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.