Topics: From the Wires
LONDON (AP) — Five things to know about Saturday, when 12 gold medals are awarded on Day 1 of the 2012 Olympics:
—Phelps-Lochte headed for first London showdown.
—Surprise torch lighters highlighted a dazzling start to the games.
—Legally blind archer has a new world record.
—A headscarf standoff poses a problem for a Saudi judo fighter.
—The IOC calls London’s prep for games “excellent.”
The opening ceremony provided a rousing start to the games, but the focus quickly shifts to the pool.
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte face off Saturday in the 400-meter individual medley, a grueling race encompassing all four strokes and an appropriate next chapter in this most intriguing of rivalries.
“A very rough race,” said Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman. “It will be a coach’s dream, but also a spectator’s dream. It will be fantastic.”
Phelps wants to add to his record total of 14 gold medals and become the first male swimmer to win the same event at three straight Olympics. But Lochte is the defending world champion and defeated Phelps rather easily at the U.S. trials last month.
Lochte is certainly not lacking for confidence.
“Right after Beijing, I had a four-year plan for getting here to London,” he said. “I thought I could go a lot faster. I knew I could, just because of the training I’ve done. That’s why I knew this was going to be my year.”
There will be four finals at the Aquatics Center on Saturday. Medals also will be awarded in archery, cycling, fencing, judo, shooting and weightlifting.
The cycling gold goes to the winner of the road race, where Mark Cavendish is the favorite, tasked with providing a memorable start for the host country.
After days of speculation, there’s an answer to the question that dominated London in the run-up to the games: Who would light the Olympic torch?
Was it Roger Bannister? Steve Redgrave? David Beckham?
Nope, nope and nope.
Seven teenage British athletes lowered torches to trumpet-like tubes that spread into a ring of fire during one of the signature moments of director Danny Boyle’s $42 million show. The copper “petals” then rose skyward and came together to form the elegant cauldron.
Fireworks erupted over the stadium to music from Pink Floyd. With a singalong of “Hey Jude,” Beatle Paul McCartney closed a show that ran 45 minutes beyond its scheduled three hours.
The other big highlight? A clever video that gave the illusion of Queen Elizabeth II parachuting into the Olympic Stadium with James Bond, aka actor Daniel Craig playing Britain’s most famous spy.
A South Korean athlete is celebrating a London first: He recorded the first world record of the games. Im Dong-hyun, who is legally blind, broke his own record Friday in the 72-arrow mark and helped South Korea set a team record in the ranking round.
“This is just the first round, so I will not get too excited by it,” said Im, who has 10 percent vision in his left eye and 20 percent in his right.
Im bettered the record he set in Turkey in May by three points with a score of 699. He also combined with Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek, smashing the record for 216 arrows with a total 2,087. That was 18 better than the mark South Korea set in May.
Im has said that when he looks at the targets, he sees colors with blurred lines between them. He doesn’t wear glasses in competition, saying he relies on distinguishing between the bright colors of the target.
Talks are also under way to allow judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani to compete after the sport’s governing federation said she would not be allowed to wear a headscarf.
Saudi Arabia, which sent its first two female athletes to the games, had only agreed to let women participate if they adhered to the kingdom’s conservative Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf.
Nicolas Messner, a spokesman for the International Judo Federation, said there was “good collaboration” to find a solution among judo officials, the International Olympic Committee and Saudi Arabia.
Messner said wearing a headscarf could be dangerous because the sport includes chokeholds and strangleholds.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge praised the local organizing committee, saying the preparations were “excellent.”
“The key ingredients for successful games are good security, a good village, venues and transportation that works,” he said. “If we have all that, we will have very good games. I am optimistic and confident.”
Rogge was asked how ready London was at this stage compared with previous host cities.
“I would think in terms of readiness these games equal the readiness of Sydney and Beijing definitely,” he said. “But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Ask me again at the closing ceremony.”
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