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EYES ON LONDON: Quick paint job, protests canceled

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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GOODWILL GAMES?

A strike by airport immigration workers has been called off. Now, taxi drivers are postponing a protest.

The reason: "To avoid further inconvenience to Londoners; we don't want to make a bad situation worse," according to a statement by "Cabbies Against Boris" (a reference to London Mayor Boris Johnson.)

The drivers are angry at the Olympic Lanes which they say will cause chaos in an always-busy city. The lanes are there solely to allow "an elite few which seems to be mainly comprised of Corporate Sponsors to travel quickly at the expense of the majority of hardworking Londoners," the cabbies say.

— Corrin Grant — Twitter http://twitter.com/cosgrant

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RACING THE CLOCK

The games begin in 48 hours, and London is still putting on the finishing touches.

Chainsaws were blaring at the equestrian venue in North Greenwich and an industrious Games staff member spent the morning walking around The O2 Arena (home of the gymnastics) with a roller dripping with purple paint, dabbing a little here, a little there.

No "Do Not Touch" signs, though.

— Will Graves — Twitter http://twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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CRUMBLING CHINA?

Four years ago, the Chinese men's gymnastics team soared to seven gold medals in front of the home crowd in Beijing. It could be a much different result in London.

The team looked sloppy during podium training on Wednesday and lacked their usual swagger.

Teng Haibian, who won gold on pommel horse in Athens in 2004, struggled on every apparatus and is dealing with a left arm injury. He wore an ace bandage and had serious issues whenever going through a move that required upper body strength.

— Will Graves — Twitter http://twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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CHANGE OF PACE

For three Summer Olympics, Adrian Croitoru competed as a middleweight in judo for Romania — placing as high as fifth in both the 1992 Barcelona Games and again in Atlanta in '96. That's why his new gig as coach of the Armenians is quite a change of pace — and still a little bit strange, too.

"Now, it's more difficult for me as a coach," Croitoru reflected as he arrived at Heathrow Airport early Wednesday with several athletes.

"I'm Romanian. I coach the Armenians," the 41-year-old said with a smile as everybody's bags were piled on one sled-like cart before they made their way off.

— Janie McCauley — Twitter: http://twitter.com/JanieMcCAP

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SOCIAL MEDIA

The London Olympics has been dubbed the social media games, and it's already living up to the moniker.

A spokeswoman for Twitter says there were more tweets about the Olympics on a single day last week than there were during the entire Beijing Games. The number of daily tweets about the London Games has been on par with the numbers during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, and the opening ceremony is coming up on Friday night.

— Jay Cohen — Twitter http://twitter.com/jcohenap

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LESS FLESH

The women's beach volleyball uniforms have gone politically correct this year, with shorts and sleeved tops replacing the bikinis.

The move was made to respect the cultural beliefs of players from different countries and updates the dress code that has been in effect since the sport became a medal event in 1996.

The American women said they'll wear more clothing in London if it's cold during their night matches, but bikinis would've been their first choice because that's what they're used to wearing. Still, they unanimously applauded the relaxed dress code.

"We want women of all different religions to be able to play our sport," said Jennifer Kessy, "and to not be able to play because of the gear is not OK."

Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/JennaFryer

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QUEEN'S HAT

The latest tempting bet: The color of the queen's hat at Friday's opening ceremony.

The shortest odds — at 3 to 1 — are on blue. Or will she go for the patriotic number and have the red, white and blue of the Union Jack? That fetches an eye-catching 50-1 at one bookmakers.

— Ian Phillips — Twitter http://twitter.com/phillipsian

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LIVE MUSIC SURPRISE

There will be live music acts at more than 650 sporting events, organizers say, but they're refusing to say who and where. Among the surprise bands: Pet Shop Boys, Scissor Sisters, Rita Ora, Sub Focus, and Rizzle Kicks.

— Maria Sanminiatelli — Twitter http://twitter.com/SanMin68

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IN-EAR COMMENTARY

Struggling to understand the rules of an obscure sport? Too much going on all at once at track and field? London organizers are selling small ear devices that will walk you through what's happening out there. Cost: 10 pounds ($15)

— Maria Sanminiatelli — Twitter http://twitter.com/SanMin68

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LESS ATTENTION, BUT IT'S OK

The American beach volleyball players walked into their news conference Wednesday lean, fit and the center of attention. But when the bulk of the questions were lobbed at the women players, a reporter gamely asked the men if they felt overlooked.

"I'm perfectly OK with it. They are way prettier," said reigning gold medalist Phil Dalhausser, recognized most for his 6-foot-9 frame and bald head.

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer

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TALKIN' TRASH:

Minnesota Timberwolves teammates Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are suddenly rivals.

Love plays for Team USA while the injured Rubio is cheering on his native Spain in the Olympics. Rubio tweeted before the two teams played an exhibition game on Tuesday night in Barcelona, "(at)kevinlove are you ready to lose to Spain tonight?"

Then the Americans put a 100-78 thumping on the Spaniards and Love tweeted him a simple and stinging retort. "How'd that work out for you, buddy?"

— Jon Krawczynski — http://www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski.

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A PRINCE AMONG VOLLEYBALLERS

Beach volleyball appears to be the trendy sport right now, with London abuzz that Prince Harry apparently has tickets to some matches.

Count the young American duo of Jennifer Kessy and April Ross among those stoked about his possible presence. Kessy pumped her fist in excitement when told Harry is rumored to be going to the venue.

"We've been tweeting," Ross said, laughing.

"We've been putting his name out there for some time, but no contact yet," Kessy chimed in.

Both women said they'd be in favor of any members of the royal family attending, and they'd welcome a photo opportunity.

Added Ross: "Harry or Kate, especially."

— Jenna Fryer — Twitter http://twitter.com/jennafryer

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LIFEGUARD CHAIRS

Overnight some new furniture has arrived In the Olympic Park. High chairs with pink seats have popped up along the walking routes. They look exactly like one used by lifeguards and even have covers to protect the occupant from the sun or rain. See a photo here: http://www.whosay.com/fergusbell/photos/207017

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

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HELLO FROM BARCELONA

AP's Eddie Pells checks in from a former Olympic city:

Hello from the Olympic City. Wait, did I get on the wrong flight? I'm in Barcelona.

OK, it's a small vacation before heading to London for the real action, but it's hard not to think "Olympics" here in what has arguably become Spain's hottest tourist spot over the past 20 years, since the Olympics changed the way that both the world views Barcelona and Barcelona views the world.

As one tour guide put it to me: Before the Olympics, Barcelona used to live with its back to the water; after the Olympics, it faces the water. Likewise, before the Olympics, Barcelona lived with its back to the world, and since the 1992 Games, the city welcomes the world.

All this becomes clear while touring the famous Sagrada Familia — the still-unfinished church designed by the iconic architect, Antonio Gaudi — or by taking a stroll along the Plajita de la Barceloneta, which, pre-1992, was underused waterfront that was redesigned and turned into a beach in anticipation of the Olympics.

Spain, as we all know, is suffering these days. A look at the latest headlines tells us about an unemployment rate nearing 25 percent and a growing number of state-like regions, including Catalonia, where Barcelona is the capital, that can't afford to maintain all the infrastructure that has sprung up over the last two decades or so.

Sad news. And these days, there are big questions as to whether Barcelona can afford to keep its arms open to the world and remain the city it grew into when the Olympics came to town.

— Eddie Pells — Twitter http://twitter.com/epells

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THIS WAY

London's supremely helpful Olympics staff and volunteers are taking nothing for granted. Everyone in the sprawling media center knows the way to their office by now — but this man shows no sign he's going away any time soon, despite the heat. See the photo here: pic.twitter.com/CVTRDhhx

— Neil Neusten — Twitter http://twitter.com/capt_nimmo

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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, and get even more AP updates from the Games here: http://twitter.com/AP_Sports