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EYES ON LONDON: Sun, village buzz, angry cabbies

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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CAUSING A SPLASH

There's been a bit of a splash at a protest staged by London's famous black cab drivers at Tower Bridge: One hurled himself into the River Thames in disgust.

The demonstration was against the introduction of "Games Lanes" — exclusive routes for Olympic athletes and officials. The cabbies have been tooting their horns, driving slowly and saying they should be allowed on to the VIP lanes, too.

The man "chose to go into the water" but was swiftly pulled out by river police, a spokesman said.

— Sylvia Hui — Twitter http://twitter.com/sylviahui

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DOWN IN THE VILLAGE

AP Television's Miles Edelsten and Alon Bernstein have captured some of the buzz inside a music-filled Olympic village. Performers greet arriving athletes, there's a large red moose outside the Canadians' living quarters, duvets in the minimalist rooms are emblazoned with motifs of all the different sports on show here. And competitors get their food inside a huge eating area with row upon row of green plastic seats.

"Village Life," says one large sign — and the athletes are giving it a thumbs-up. "All different shapes and sizes of athletes are all just in one place and it's cool to see what everyone does," says Canadian basketball player Michelle Plouffe.

— Miles Edelsten, Alon Bernstein.

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SOAK UP THOSE RAYS

In Britain, you've got to grab that sun while you can. It's the loveliest day in months and demand is high for a lunchtime outdoor seat at the Main Press Center in Olympic Park. At one table, seven CCTV workers listen closely as their boss — the only one in a suit — outlines strategy. At another, two German technicians drink beer and discuss cameras. At a third, four young British soldiers clad in sharp khakis sit down, grinning ear-to-ear.

— Sheila Norman-Culp — http://twitter.com/snormanculp

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A POIGNANT REMINDER

AP's Mari Yamaguchi reports from Tokyo that schoolchildren from tsunami-hit areas in northern Japan presented each athlete in the country's 518-member delegation with a hand-carved good luck charm made of driftwood. Attached ribbons carry signed messages from the children.

About 19,000 people died or went missing in last year's disaster.

Mizuho Sato, 14, says many people supported her after the tsunami and that it's now her turn to cheer for the athletes. That brought tears to the eyes of javelin thrower Yukifumi Murakami, who vowed to return the favor with good results.

— Mari Yamaguchi — http://twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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CATCHING UP ON THEIR READING

To pass the time in Birmingham at training camp before the Olympics begin, the U.S. track team has organized a book club. Runners Lauryn Williams and Alysia Montano came up with the idea over lunch and are serving as co-chairs of the group. The novel they have selected: "The History of Love," by Nicole Krauss.

Soon, they'll conduct their first meeting to begin discussing the book.

"But we're already getting good reviews about the book," says Williams, who's on page 64. "We even have boys in the club, so with a name like 'The History of Love,' you know it has to be good."

Still undecided is the name for their new club. So far, the ideas suggested include "The Book Club Bookies" or "The Paperback Club."

Says Williams: "We're still working on it."

— Pat Graham — Twitter http://twitter.com/pgraham34

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STOP GOSSIPING!

Director Danny Boyle wants details of Friday's opening ceremony to stay secret, and games chief Sebastian Coe has pleaded for insiders to stop leaking details.

Good luck on that front, guys. A trickle of detail about the 27 million pound ($42 million) ceremony has become a torrent.

Like surprises? Look away now.

A prerecorded segment has been filmed inside Buckingham Palace, reportedly involving Queen Elizabeth II and Daniel Craig as secret agent James Bond. If rumor is to be believed, a stuntman dressed as 007 will parachute into the stadium to start the show. The opening sequence will evoke a pastoral idyll, the "green and pleasant land" described in William Blake's poem "Jerusalem," which is regarded as England's unofficial national anthem. There's a meadow, livestock, a farmer in his field — and a cricket match.

— Jill Lawless — Twitter (at)JillLawless

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CHAMP STAMP

The Royal Mail is planning a tribute to Britain's Olympians that really sticks — a set of gold medal stamps. The postal service says it will issue a stamp honoring every member of Team GB who wins gold during the games — and they're aiming to have them go on sale within 24 hours of the athlete's victory.

— Jill Lawless — Twitter (at)JillLawless

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REMEMBERING MUNICH

It didn't have the worldwide TV audience many had hoped for, but IOC chief Jacques Rogge has just led a minute's silence inside the Olympic village to remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain in Munich 40 years ago.

He had rebuffed calls for a solemn pause during the opening ceremony but recalled Monday how the Israelis "came to Munich in the spirit of peace and solidarity."

He added: "We owe it to them to keep that spirit alive and to remember them."

— Stephen Wilson — Twitter (at)SteveWilsonAP

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IN TRANSIT, SORT OF

It wasn't a good Monday morning for London commuters: Multiple key lines on the London subway, the Tube, were hit by signal failures and lengthy delays, stoking fears that the Victorian-era network won't be able to cope during games time.

The Overground line, a key route to the Olympic Park, was suspended for hours during peak time with little explanation given to passengers. There were more sweaty, frustrated commuters over at the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line, one of the most fickle on the network, which saw delays caused by faulty platform edge doors that didn't open and close properly.

The Transport for London website now says all lines are operating a "good service," but Londoners know better than to take consolation from these reassurances (they're often not the most up-to-date information).

In short: Don't believe it until the train starts moving.

— Sylvia Hui — Twitter (at)sylviahui

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THE SWIMMER TWEETS

The man who is three medals away from becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time has arrived.

"And the wait is over... Finally here in (hashtag)London," U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps tweeted a few minutes ago.

He's is expected to compete in seven events in London, including the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter (at)fergb

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THE HIDDEN POWER

Running an Olympics takes a lot of electricity. But there's not much obvious evidence to show it.

Most cables have been hidden from view. Two 6-kilometer (about 3.8-mile) tunnels under the park are used to hide electrical cabling. And even finding those can be a bit of a challenge: One of the access points is hidden underneath some artwork that is a visual representation of the sound of the Olympic rings.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter (at)fergb

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PARK GLIMPSES

Random London Olympic Park facts to file away for the next couple weeks:

— The park is 2.5 square kilometers (1 square mile) of regenerated land. It is the size of Hyde Park and Kensington Park Gardens combined — two of London's best-known parks.

— Underneath the Aquatics Center was the largest mountain of old refrigerators in Europe. We're working on finding out where exactly those refrigerators ended up.

— The hockey pitch is one location identified as a development plot. It could be used for housing, parkland or something to complement the International Broadcast Centre, which is right next door.

— The River Lee, which runs through the park, is the second-biggest river in London after the Thames, and is also the biggest Thames tributary. The Lee was one of the most polluted rivers in the county before it was cleaned for the Games.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter (at)fergb

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MAKE IT SO

Fill in your own "Star Trek" pun here.

Patrick "Jean-Luc Picard" Stewart will be taking a turn on the Olympic torch relay Monday, transporting it (sorry) through parts of London. Also up for their turns: tennis stars Venus Williams and Andy Murray, who will carry the flame to Wimbledon in southwest London.

The torch is touring London before arriving at Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on Friday. It's already been to the Channel Islands, Scotland and various national landmarks like Stonehenge.

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SO DISORIENTED

Go left, go right, go straight. Huh? Officials admit you shouldn't follow the signs for the speedy Javelin train to the Olympic Park from central London's St. Pancras train station just yet. That's because the signs point to queues and traffic flows that aren't in place now. Come Friday, the day of the Olympics' opening ceremony, officials promise it will all be clear — and ready to handle the 80,000 people pouring into the stadium.

— Sheila Norman-Culp — Twitter (at)snormanculp

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DRY WEATHER, DRY WIT

Just tweeted by AP's Rob Harris ("LOCOG" is the London organizing committee and the "IOC" is the International Olympic Committee):

"Expecting questions to LOCOG from the IOC - they were assured of rain in London for Olympics not this scorching weather"

— Rob Harris — Twitter (at)RobHarris

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FRIENDLY STAFF

Olympics are typically staffed by very friendly volunteers, but it would be hard to find a nicer bunch than those here this week. Not only that, but the British Army screeners at security checkpoints are unfailingly cheerful and polite. What's more, they manage to do it without seeming cloying or fake — no small affair when you're dealing with hundreds of people every hour and essentially saying the same thing to each one.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter (at)anthonyted

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OLYMPIC PARK GLIMPSES

AP's Fergus Bell is wandering Olympic Park as part of a preview tour. His latest observations:

Around the Olympic Park are many colorful rubbish bins, with each color representing a recycling category. The London Olympics aims to be the first ever "zero waste games."

One of my guides, Libby Jardine, is responsible for passing on what is learned about recycling during the games to the event industry. Matt Watts, my other guide, says that usually waste at events "is an absolute nightmare."

Watts cites nightmare events such as music festivals where product giveaways and different recycling routines produce lots of waste. And Jardine says the London Games have a slogan in place to guide people: "Reduce, re-use, recycle."

— Fergus Bell — Twitter (at)fergb

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A RAINY OPENING?

The weather for Friday: Uncertain. That much is certain.

There's a chance of rain for Friday's Olympics opening ceremony. If it materializes, it will come on the heels of what's expected to be a largely sunny week.

Here's forecaster Barry Gromett of Britain's Met Office: "Showers can be a bit hit and miss, I'm afraid."

It might fit right into the plan, actually. The ceremony's director, Danny Boyle, has planned for fake rain in case the heavens fail to cooperate.

— Danica Kirka — Twitter (at)DanicaKirka

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SECURITY RAMPS UP

Security around the Olympics is feeling a bit different Monday morning than in recent days — and we're not talking looser.

Outside the perimeter of Olympic Park, armed London police — a sight in themselves for a force famous for not carrying guns — patrolled with large assault rifles.

A sweep of nearly 20 police with a sniffer dog began by a nearby train station and moved into the entryway to the area's main transport hub and shopping center. At the same time, lines are beginning to grow at security checkpoints and transport is becoming busier.

And this is four days before the opening ceremonies. What will it look like Friday?

— Gerald Imray — Twitter (at)GeraldImrayAP

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A PAUSE FOR CYCLING

Front pages in London on Monday morning are taking a break from Olympics runup coverage to focus on a non-Olympian sports triumph: Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, one of the city's own.

Now, after becoming the first Briton to win cycling's showcase event over the weekend, Wiggins is headed home to go for the Olympic gold.

"Everything turns to the Olympics and I'll be out on the bike tomorrow and I've got an Olympic time trial to try and win," Wiggins says.

— Greg Keller and Simon Haydon — Twitter (at)simonhaydon

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OLYMPIC PARK GLIMPSES

AP's Fergus Bell is wandering Olympic Park as part of a preview tour. His latest observations:

Right now I am standing in the North part of the park overlooking the River Lee and the velodrome. My guide Matt, a sustainability manager during games time, tells me that where I am standing was, seven years ago, home to more than 200 derelict buildings, cars and tires.

The River Lee, which looks clean and refreshing, used to be housed in a concrete channel. That is all gone now and has been replaced by a wildflower meadow full of bees, birds and butterflies. And the flowers are not colorful by chance; they have been engineered to be blooming during the games.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter (at)fergb

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COMMUTER GRUMBLES

Londoners love to grumble about getting around town, and the grumbles are reaching fever pitch with the imminent arrival of more than 1 million Olympic visitors.

The biggest target: the "Zil" lanes, named for the Russian limos that used to sweep along Moscow's main boulevards. They don't open until Wednesday, but taxi drivers are demonstrating in central London later today to show their displeasure. The lanes are aimed at easing the transport of officials, journalists and volunteers from their central bases in London for the 10-mile (14 kilometer) trip to Olympic Park.

London's "Tube," the underground service that transports millions every day, hit problems on the main lines to the Olympic Park on Monday. "Door problems" on the Jubilee Line was one explanation. "Body on the track" was another. Unfortunately, the "body on the track" line is not rare these days; it has become a favored method of committing suicide.

— Simon Haydon — Twitter (at)simonhaydon

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SOMEBODY'S WATCHING YOU

"Sinister. Disturbing. Creepy. Frightening. The official mascots of London's Olympic and Paralympic Games — Wenlock and Mandeville — have been called all of those things, but organizers are hoping to tack on a more positive title: merchandising magic." — AP London's Cassandra Vinograd on London's Olympic characters.

She adds: "The futuristic-looking pair have popped up all over London, casting their one-eyed gaze at tourists and locals alike from posters, statues and a slew of Olympic merchandise ranging from key chains to cutlery. Bloggers and other commentators, however, have been skewering the duo for scaring children and projecting a creepy surveillance-state image of the Olympic games."

— Cassandra Vinograd — Twitter (at)CassVinograd

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SUNNY SKIES

The city so famous for gloomy weather that there's actually a raincoat named after its fog is awash in blazing sunshine and warm temperatures Monday morning. And the outlook is looking good for the next few days — a welcome surprise to some Londoners, who have learned to expect the worst from their weather.

The forecasts suggest that Friday's outdoor opening ceremonies, though, may not be quite as lucky. Americans might want to consider bringing their London Fog raincoats along.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter (at)anthonyted

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NEED A JOURNALIST?

As of Monday morning, more than 13,600 members of the media have validated their Olympics accreditations. That's more people than some small cities. And lots more to come in the next few days.

Bottom line: If you're coming to the Olympics, prepare to be interviewed.

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WHICH WAY, NOW?

Signs to the high-speed Javelin train at London's St. Pancras station are confusing. Many arrows that look like they're telling people to proceed "straight ahead" are actually intended to mean "up".

After ending up outside and clearly in the wrong place, I asked directions from the policeman standing underneath the sign. He told me that they were indeed confusing and they had spoken to management a number of times about fixing them.

No response so far, he said.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter (at)fergb

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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.