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:
Blade Runner reflects
The “Blade Runner” did not win a medal, but that doesn’t mean these Olympics were any less important.
Oscar Pistorius set a precedent with his journey to and through the London Games, and he can add one more accomplishment: He was a finalist.
A double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades, Pistorius anchored the South Africa team in the 4×400-meter relay final on Friday night, bringing the 80,000-strong crowd to a crescendo.
It didn’t matter that he finished eighth. He can proudly add “Olympic finalist” to his long list of unprecedented achievements.
“This whole experience was amazing … to step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Pistorius said. “That opportunity to come here once again and finish today and not yesterday is a dream come true.”
Pistorius said the atmosphere, the crowd, the competition, the experience were all “far beyond my expectations.”
“If I took all the positive things I thought might come out of this and multiply it by 10, it still couldn’t come close.”
Lakers face off
Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will face off when the United States takes on Spain for the gold medal on Sunday.
While both aspire to take home a gold for their respective countries, on Friday both were also thinking about Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic center who was traded to the Lakers.
Gasol said the move will give the Lakers a huge boost.
“It puts us in a position of trying to win the championship and going after it,” he said. “There’s going to be expectations of being a very strong and powerful team, and we like that.”
Bryant was even more exuberant, proclaiming that the Lakers are “locked and loaded to bring back the title.”
He spoke with Howard on Friday morning, and interrupted his pursuit of a gold medal to talk about the years to come in Los Angeles.
“I’ll probably play two or three more years. Then the team is his,” Bryant said. “I’m excited for the franchise because now they have a player that can carry the franchise well after I’m gone. This should be his and he should want to accept that challenge.”
One more Bolt
The London Games are going to get one more Bolt before they come to a close.
Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans will be the favorites when they hit the track for the 4×100 relay finals on Saturday. A victory would give Bolt three golds in London, and six for his already brilliant career.
Bolt rested on Friday while his teammates clocked in at 37.39 seconds, a time that surely will drop with the world’s fastest man in the group.
Still, the Americans showed they’re not going to just hand Bolt the gold medal. Their time of 37.38 seconds was a U.S. record.
“There’s a lot of people there who have come to spoil the party,” Bolt said earlier this week. “So we’ll see.”
Drunk as a skunk
It’s hard to picture US men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as a party animal staggering around the streets of London.
But that’s exactly how he jokingly described himself after the US beat Argentina by 26 points on Friday night to advance to the gold medal game.
Krzyzewski took exception to a question from a reporter asking if he had to do any coaching, given he had such a talented roster.
“Absolutely none,” he deadpanned. “I’m out every night with my family, drunk as a skunk. Wait till you see me tonight. I’ll get in at six and you all are invited to come out with me.”
Krzyzewski is famous for his obsessive preparation, so the only headache he’ll have on Saturday likely will be the one caused by planning for the Sunday gold medal final against Spain.
No military service
Medal winners in South Korea are exempted from the 21 months of military service that their fellow countrymen must do before they are 29.
So the South Korean men’s soccer team had an extra reason to celebrate Friday after beating regional rival Japan 2-0 and taking home a bronze medal.
“I’m very happy to win the bronze medal and everybody here will now get a new chance by being exempted from military service,” said striker Park Chu-young, who scored a stunning first goal. “That’s what I’m really pleased about because that was our aim at the start of the tournament.
Kim Bok-yung, who is joining English League Championship team Cardiff next season, said being able to skip military service “makes me as happy as winning the bronze medal.”
“It is a big problem for Korean players, but now I have avoided it,” he said. “I will have no problem staying in Europe.”
Britain’s poet laureate has written a poem to celebrate the triumphs and memorable moments of the London Olympics.
Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, titled “Translating the British, 2012,” opens with, “The Queen jumped from the sky/ to the cheering crowds” — a reference to the moment during the July 27 opening ceremony when a stuntman doubling as Queen Elizabeth II parachuted into the Olympic Stadium.
Duffy hails the successes of British athletes in the best Olympics performance the nation has seen in a century.
But she also makes clear that the games shouldn’t be a fleeting triumph, writing: “For every medal earned/ We want school playing-fields returned.”
Here she was referring to government budget cuts that make it harder for many schools to fund children’s participation in sports.
Hanging with Gabby
Now that she’s done with her events, Gabby Douglas has more time to hang out at different places in London.
Recently, she was playing with kids at a McDonald’s as part of the fast food giant’s program to bring children from around the world to the London Olympics and to meet athletes.
A top Olympics sponsor, McDonald’s is using the games as a vehicle to promote an active lifestyle for children.
The official McDonald’s Twitter account posted a picture on Friday of Douglas grinning with a group of children, along with this description: “Gold Medal Gymnast (at)GabrielleDoug is hanging with our Champions of Play kids in London! Excitement all around!”
Olympic style partying
The competitions will end Sunday, but then expect fetes that organizers say will be of Olympic proportions.
Consider music director David Arnold’s prediction: it will be “the greatest after-party in the world.”
“If the opening ceremony was the wedding, then we’re the wedding reception,” Arnold told the Daily Telegraph — with everyone from the Pet Shop Boys to Annie Lennox and Fatboy Slim on hand to get people dancing.
Organizers have tried to keep the ceremony under wraps, but details have leaked out in the British media. Some of the performers have let the cat out of the bag themselves.
The Who, George Michael, Muse and Ed Sheeran have all said they will take part in a show that will include performances of 30 British hit singles from the past five decades.
Of course, there will also be ceremonial elements, including an athletes’ march, the raising of the flags of Greece — birthplace of the Olympics — current host Britain and 2016 Games host Brazil, and the extinguishing of the Olympic cauldron, marking the handover to Rio.
But the main event will be a mashup of music, theater, circus and hit parade.
Medal count motivation
New Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs knew just how important his gold medal in freestyle wrestling was for the United States team.
Burroughs knew that China edged the U.S. in medal count at the last two Summer Games.
So he downloaded a phone app to help track the daily score.
“That was something big for me,” Burroughs said after winning the 74-kilogram division Friday. “I wanted to be the guy that could help us out.”
After Burroughs’ win, the U.S. leads China 41 to 37 in hunt for golds.
The charismatic 24-year-old, who identifies himself on Twitter as (at)alliseeisgold, did just that by defeating Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi of Iran in the title bout.
“Even though China makes all our clothes, they can’t beat us at medals,” he said.
It brings a whole new meaning to Olympic rings.
Love is in the air during the 2012 games, it seems. The question has been popped an estimated 25 times under the large, multi-colored rings inside Olympic Park.
Bram Lobeek, from Utrecht in the Netherlands, finally found the moment he had been looking for all year.
After watching the Dutch men’s hockey team beat South Korea this week, he convinced his reluctant girlfriend of almost 10 years to line up for a photo by the rings.
He didn’t explain his motive — and fretted as she started to look bored.
His girlfriend, Hetty van der Pennen, recalled wondering why she was wasting her time there.
“So I was standing and I said ‘what is he doing?’ and he was pointing at the Olympic rings and he said ‘well, these are yours,’” she said Friday. “I said: ‘What?’ Then he went down on his knees.”
Early in his rookie NBA season, Ricky Rubio told Kobe Bryant that Spain was going to beat the U.S. in the Olympics.
Unfortunately Rubio was only watching Spain in London. The Minnesota Timberwolves guard is recovering from a torn ACL and is unavailable. So instead of wearing his white Spanish jersey in the semifinal against Russia, Rubio was wearing a green T-shirt and watching from the stands.
But he’s on the right track thinking that Spain is not bad. Spain just beat Russia 67-59 and could face the U.S. in the gold-medal game if the Americans top Argentina later Friday. — Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski