Indians upset by mystery woman marching alongside them in Opening Ceremony

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India have complained to London 2012 over an apparent security lapse during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics last night when an unidentified woman walked alongside flag-bearer Sushil Kumar during the athletes' parade.

The young woman, dressed in a red shirt and blue trousers, marched next to the weightlifter, a bronze medallist at Beijing four years ago, despite having no visible accreditation.

India's Chef de Mission P K Muralidharan Raja has now complained to London 2012 about the incident which has become the main talking point in India about the much-praised Opening Ceremony.

"She had no business to walk in with the Indian contingent and we are taking up the issue with the organisers," he said.

"We don't know who she is and why she was allowed to walk in.

"It is a shame that she was with the athletes in the march past.

"We were initially told that she would accompany the contingent till the track but she went on to take the entire lap.

"There was another man also but he stayed back and did not enter the Stadium.

"We have taken strong exception to this.

"The march past is for the athletes and officials attached to the contingent.

"We are totally taken by surprise how a person could just intrude into the track."

A total of 40 Indian athletes and 11 officials dressed in traditional blazers and Rajasthani yellow turbans or yellow sarees marched in the Opening Ceremony, earning one of the biggest cheers of the evening.

"The Indian contingent was shown for hardly ten seconds in the television coverage and the entire focus sadly was on this lady, instead of the athletes," said Raja.

It is a major issue for Raja to take over having only been promoted to the role of Chef de Mission on the eve of the Opening Ceremony after Ajitpal Singh, the original choice, was unable to travel here due to a serious back problem.

By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre in the Olympic Park in London


London Olympics 2012, here we are

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Is it the tension which precedes the entry to our Olympic challenge, or are you mesmerised by the spectacular dressings of that great city called London where the Bridge, The Palace, the river Thames, and the bustling old-fashioned taxis which mix with buses, trains, subway and overhead, all fitting snugly into space that often appear insufficient on a normal day. And while the athletes from almost every country (204) in the world have presented an enthusiastic, scintillating and colourful entry into the Olympic stadium, the fans of every sporting discipline will be present to ensure that Olympic history in brought to life four years after Beijing 2008. In open bars, around the parks of central London, Hyde Park, St James Park, the so called soap box Parliament at Hyde Park Corner, human voices using various languages, each representing a nation with obvious dialect, come together to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a carnival without bacchanal, surrounded by an unassuming, but alert police presence. With the brilliant start which saw a brazilian dominace on the football field, where flair and creativity mesmerised the Cameroun Women and the following day, the pain of the Egyptian politics was not spared by the men’s version of football’s ingenuity when the enthusiastic Egyptians chased around a plush field for forty-five minutes in search of a ball that seemed harder for them to find than a needle in a haystack.
The resilience of the Mubarak stained country’s youth showed their fight and surprised south Americans with speed and lethal finishing which led us to believe that the commitment to the sport has surpassed the turmoil of the past year in Cairo. The enjoyment gained from such an exercise was enough for the fans to take a deep breath on the opening day and await more excitement in the days to come. Ironically enough, the chosen Olympic City is clustered with international Cricket, super exciting football from various parts of the world live on TV with teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan, Manchester city and many other world Class teams. It appears contrary to what the British was trying to market and one day the financial statistics may reveal the details of the end result. Then there is the constant hum coming from the Jamaicans and fans as to which of their world Class sprinters will earn the gold medals in the sprints. All interpretations echoed different formulas as to Bolt’s fitness. Some claimed that he is now fit and ready to take on all comers, including Yohan Blake, and will keep his success trail as he did between London and Beijing. But, hold a minute! The people friendly triple Gold medallist of the Beijing Olympics, may well be jolted over the new of his close friend and schoolmate will not make the trip to London because of a charge of double murder which has been laid against him recently. If the reports are true about the closeness of these two individuals are correct, Usain may have a serious bug to remove from his mental frame.
Others silently saw his recent withdrawal from what would have been his final preparation before the start of his Olympic Gold chase as a significant piece of evidence that all is still not well and may be just hoping to devise a method of pacing himself from the first round to the final. Possible, but we all have to wait and see. Our women athletes keep sending us some positive messages, not only in Cardiff last week, but for the past three months, and it will be unwise to ignore them. Their opponents are concerned over the recent improvement of Kerry Ann Baptiste , Cleopatra Borell and others, because of the times and distances which are alongside their names at every event. The men’s optimism should not be underestimated although statistics do not quite reflect any level of exuberance other patriotism. The build leading up to the present time, exposes keston bledman and Ronerl Sorillo as the ones leading towards a well judged peaktime, while we all have to await the arrival of the Richard Thompson when he leaves his final technical training before arriving in London. Trinis who have made the trip to provide patriotic support for the Red/white. And black of T&T will hope to erupt and bring London to a liveliness which only exists at Nottinghill carnival.
A Few whispers are about our young and exciting sailor Andrew Lewis, our cycling medal contender Njisane Phillips , together our marksman Roger Daniel. The twin Island state has much to which we can look forward. The atmosphere is electrifying in the Land that was once associated with us. We treasured their guidance then, and we even offered our Olympic gem of that era McDonald Bailey to them. His success was our way of showing the extra ordinary talent of our people. Today, there are many ageing athletes of yesteryear from this blessed country who are eagerly awaiting those who will add to the medal cabinet. Oh, how will Lennox Kilgour, Rodney Wilkes, Wendell Mottley, Edwain Roberts, Kent Bernard, Ed Skinner, ( who is actually present in London), our Olympic Gold medallist Hasely Crawford , and Ato Boldon feel  if Richard Thompson can inspire the group of contenders to another glorious moment to make this a wonderful gift to celebrate our fiftieth Anniversary of Independence. And if, like myself, you will be there to show support and allegiance to our country, our own Caribbean Airlines is ready to take you safely to the destination.
-Alvin Corneal

London organisers investigating empty seats

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London's Olympic organisers launched an investigation into empty seats on the first day of the Games yesterday.

On a school holiday and after months of public complaints over the inability of thousands in Britain to buy tickets, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the minister responsible for the Olympics, said he was disappointed by the empty seats and that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) were looking into it.

"LOCOG are doing a full investigation into what happened," Hunt told publicly-funded broadcaster BBC one day after a widely praised opening ceremony starring Queen Elizabeth, Paul McCartney and Rowan Atkinson.

Television coverage of events on Saturday showed and visitors to venues found scores of empty seats in the early part of the day at the aquatics centre, in the basketball arena and later on at Wimbledon for the tennis. There was also plenty of space to stretch out in the Olympic Park.

"We think it was accredited seats that belong to sponsors, but if they are not going to turn up, we want those tickets to be available for members of the public, because that creates the best atmosphere. So we are looking at this very urgently at the moment," Hunt said.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said he was surprised that the events were not full.

LOCOG became used to putting up the "sold out" sign within minutes of each tranche of tickets going on sale to the public.

On Saturday some ticket box offices at venues in the park still had queues of people seeking to buy tickets for selected sports.

"I've been trying and trying every day to get (soccer) tickets for Argentina," 34-year-old Argentinian electrician Lucas Lopez told Reuters on a stroll through the park.

"Where there are empty seats, we will look at who should have been sitting in the seats, and why they did not attend. Early indications are that the empty seats are in accredited seating areas, but this is day one, and our end of day review will provide a fuller picture," LOCOG said in a statement late on Saturday.

LOCOG declined to provide a figure for the number of people in the park on Saturday or how many tickets had been sold but said that 11 million people would attend the Games.

Greene: Technical issues make Bolt vulnerable

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Olympic 100-metre champion Usain Bolt will lose his crown to compatriot Yohan Blake unless he quickly fixes technical problems with his race, former world record holder Maurice Greene told Reuters yesterday.

The American said Bolt's vulnerability in the first 60 metres, already exposed this year by the younger Jamaican, gave his rivals the scent of gold that was absent in Beijing four years ago.

"If Usain was running like he was in Beijing, he would win hands down," said the 2000 Olympic gold medallist. "But he is not running like that."

Body position out of the starting blocks and in the first 60 metres are hurting the world's most famous sprinter, Greene said.

"Those problems...bring everybody closer to him, which makes him susceptible to losing," said Greene, who is serving as a television analyst at the Games.

"Usain is the more talented, but Blake has a better technical race," added Greene, who correctly predicted Blake would win last year's 100m world championship in which Bolt false-started.

Blake, the year's fastest at both 100 and 200, also prevailed in last month's Jamaican Olympic trials in which Bolt was slowed by hamstring problems.

Although there has been much speculation about Bolt's fitness, Greene said he did not believe he is currently injured.

"All of his problems are technical," Greene said.

Bolt looked sluggish in both Jamaican races, prompting many to predict the lanky sprinter would fail in his bid for a repeat in the 100.

He badly wants both golds to secure his place as a great in the sport he dominates. No man has ever claimed repeat Olympic titles in both.

Bolt will win the 200 hands down, Greene said, but there will be no runaway victory by anyone in the 100.

"Not unless the freak comes out in Usain Bolt," said Greene when asked if anyone could duplicate the Jamaican's two-tenths of a second victory in Beijing.

"He is only one that can do that. He might be capable of doing it again. I just don't see from the races I have seen that he is in that type of shape."

Beyond Bolt and Blake, the race for the bronze is wide open, Greene said.

Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, Jamaican former world record holder Asafa Powell and Trinidad and Tobago's Keston Bledman all should be in the mix for the final medal.

Gay, the world's second fastest man, has the speed to run with the best when healthy, but Greene said he was concerned about his hesitancy to go all out at the start because of hip surgery that kept him off the track for nearly a year.

Gatlin's tendency to rush his transition could cost the 2004 Olympic champion who served a four-year doping ban between 2006-10, Greene said.

Powell has the talent, but his poor record in major championships makes him suspect.

"If he is relaxed, he might beat everybody," Greene said.

The Olympic Games Opening Ceremony: a fine and proud very British occasion

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This was a stripped down Opening Ceremony, revealing the truth of so many elements of Britain's history that we take as read in a vivid and beautifully modulated show which presaged a coup de theatre which confounded all the – heated - discussion about Who Would Light The Olympic Cauldron.

Not David Beckham. Nor Daley Thompson, nor Kelly Holmes, nor even five-times Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave, although all played their part in bearing the Torch on the final stages of long journey to this stadium in east London.

Finally, the ancient Flame was transferred to its temporary resting place by collective youth – seven young athletes nominated by seven of Britain's greatest Olympians and acting jointly to ignite a "Flame of Unity" composed of copper "petals" within a giant bowl in the centre of the stadium which formed itself into a group of firebrands.

Not so much an Olympic cauldron as an Olympic thicket.

And when you think about it, this was entirely in keeping with an Olympics which was drawn towards London rather than Paris by the emphasis the British bidders laid upon what these Games could do for the nation's youth.

Beckham glided on a speedboat up the Thames, along the River Lee, bearing the Flame; Redgrave brought it from the river into the stadium along a lit bridge, playing yet another significant sporting role for his country, but this time not on water but land.

Meanwhile Sarah Stevenson, the 2008 taekwondo Olympic bronze medallist whose parents both died last year and who has overcome injury to secure her place at these Games, took the Athletes' Oath. It was a profoundly touching honour for a determined and courageous competitor – on what was a profoundly touching night.

Gone were the huge battalions of Beijing. The stadium was not always filled with noise – images and captions of the screens did much of the necessary work.

The central field was not always filled with performers.

The whole show ebbed and flowed, offering successive images and sounds to remind us of and reconnect us with the deepest parts of our national life.

Abide With Me, the setpiece anthem of so many FA Cup finals, was sung with quiet fervour by Akram Khan and Emeli Sande as a small but perfectly formed dance troupe performed in dramatic orange lighting under the disc of an imaginary sun: the old made fresh and new.

The Torch Ceremony was preceded by fireworks and the Arctic Monkeys, playing among other songs the Beatles' Come Together – energy in vivid abundance.

As the teams marched in – to the constant beating of drums – any trepidation about the appearance of North Korea after the Old Trafford flag fiasco was quickly quelled.

It was the correct flag.

Strangely the South Koreans also managed to flourish the correct flag too.

It's not hard, is it?

The succession of excited athletes marching behind their nominated flagbearer and a demurely smiling young maid bearing the name of the nation in a silvery sign above her head recalled directly the Opening Ceremonies of times past. The numerous athletes recording the appearance on mobile phone cameras reminded of times present.

But it is one of enduring richnesses of the Olympics that so many nations are involved, nations that do not tend to find a profile within world sport except for this four-yearly procession: Aruba, Benin, Bhutan, British Virgin Islands, Kiribati, Kyrgyzslan, Federated States of Micronesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Nauru, Sao Tome and Principe, Timor Leste...

The names, the excited faces, have a cumulative and moving power.

Here the world is, so much of it, and we, Britain, are hosts. 1908, 1948, now.

The turn-out for the United States team was huge – its squad stretched easily down the straight and round the bend.

A statement of intent?

The roar for the British – last, as hosts, but by no means likely to be last in the medals table – was predictably marked.

The team's arrival was marked by a storm of white confetti – mirroring their white outfits with fold trim.

Out they came to the sound of David Bowie's Heroes – just for one night.

Up in the Royal Box, hands clapped along.

Such is the bizarre power of Olympics.

The evening's entertainment had begun peacefully, quietly – bucolically in fact – with pastoral scenes on a British meadow upon which country folk cavorted and real cows, goats and geese blithered about.

Although the cottage in the centre of infield looking , frankly, inflammatory and deserving of the attention of the many fire marshals who have been busying themselves on the Olympic site over the last few weeks.

In a brief appearance before the Ceremony-proper had got underway, the director, Danny Boyle, offered a welcome and a hope that it would not rain – which, but for five minutes, proved founded.

He concluded with a quote from Billy Connolly: "I don't believe in God, but I believe in the people who do" – referencing those who were the keepers of the Olympic spirit.

Not quite sure what he meant by this.

The fervent hope was that the ringing of the Olympic Bell at the end of the countdown minutes after the Ceremony-proper began would not see any repeat of the incident earlier in the day when a handbell rung on camera by the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt detached itself from its handle and flew just past the head of a nearby young woman.

Hunt's ding-dong moment came as part of the day's Ring The Bells activity – now known as the Great Bells Up.

The countdown arrived and was negotiated in orderly fashion, upon which Bradley Wiggins, Britain's first Tour de France winner, arrived in his yellow jersey and approached the biggest bicycle bell he had ever rung and rung it, firmly, once, without referring to raffle tickets or anything else.

A choir sang Jerusalem and – smart work on the big display screens – a picture of Jonny Wilkinson wheeling in triumph from that World Cup drop-kick coincided with the words "chariots of fire".

So good that we didn't cut to the ludicrous racing along the sand which has become the quick ID of the film of that name – although we did get a spoof version featuring Rowan Atkinson later, which was also good and in the informal spirit of this event.

As had been rumoured, there was an airing for God Save The Queen – the Sex Pistols' version, that was.

However, the informality of the event did not stretch to playing the line "she ain't no human being"; nor indeed did the excerpt from London Calling by The Clash extend to the bit about "a nuclear error".

The history of our nation was swiftly dealt with as we began with a thunderous depiction of the Industrial Revolution which concluded with an acknowledgement of the great Sigmund Freud – whose groundbreaking work on the human mind began soon after the Revolution had finished – as sex giant smokestack chimneys tumesced their way between banks of green sward.

But, hang on. Wasn't Freud Austrian? (And, of course, I meant six giant smokestack chimneys. Sorry.)

Before long the smokestacks were doing what smokestacks do – it looked a Health and Safety nightmare from where we were sitting two rows in from the action – but then, as we have already established, there were ample fire marshals in attendance.

Soon, however, the fire marshals had something else to worry about: the sight of five Olympic rings of "molten steel" shedding fireworks directly above the head of the bucolic actors on the green fields beneath.

Soon, there was a mighty murmur of surprise as the audience realised that the film showing on the big screen in which Daniel Craig, as James Bond, was ushered into a room in "Buckingham Palace" where a silver-haired "Queen" was seated with her back to him, ignoring him until he cleared his throat, was really showing a room in Buckingham Palace.

And, as the turning figure revealed, was really featuring the Queen.

The pair was then shown leaving the Palace en route for a helicopter which then flew over London's landmarks, and under the Olympic Rings suspended beneath Tower Bridge, before reaching the stadium, where they parachuted out.

It soon became clear, however, that spectators had been cruelly duped, as the real Queen arrived in the stand accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and the IOC President Jacques Rogge – all very disappointing.

By way of welcome, a choir of children very nicely sang the National Anthem – and more than one verse of it too.

No plastic Brits on show tonight, thank you.

The centrefield then filled with nurses pushing beds – thankfully, despite the late disappearance of the stunt biking and other elements from the Ceremony because of worries about people being able to get transport home, the National Health had avoided further cuts.

Irresistible – spotting the groups and the acts as the Ceremony celebrated British popular music.

Oh yes, we are really good at this. The Who. The Beatles. The Clash. The Jam. The Sex Pistols. The Prodigy. Blur. Dizzee Rascal. Just imagine if Paris had won the bid – it would have been 20 minutes of Johnny Hallyday (is that terribly unkind?).

Next, we were invited to join Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, as his words "This is for everyone" appeared writ large on the audience.

In his welcoming address, the London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said: "I have never been so proud to be British and to be a part of the Olympic Movement as I am on this day at this moment.

In every Olympic sport there is all that makes life worth living.

"Humans stretched to the limit of their capabilities, inspired by what they can achieve, driven by their talent to work harder than they can believe possible, living for the moment but making an indelible mark on history."

Fine words to conclude a fine and proud occasion

By Mike Rowbottom