The Olympic torch began a festive valedictory lap around London on Thursday, taking in some of the unexpectedly sun-drenched capital’s most famous landmarks on the second-to-last day of its trek across Britain.
The torch – carried by athletes, charity workers and celebrities – thrilled thousands of Londoners as it swept across Regent’s Canal in Camden, through the city’s newly renovated neo-gothic train station at St. Pancras and down the winding streets of the ancient City of London.
For many Londoners, it was their first glimpse of a golden beacon that has spent the past 68 days traveling up and down the country, from Loch Ness to Land’s End and beyond.
Today the torch will complete its journey, lighting the Olympic Stadium’s cauldron in a ceremony marking the official start of the 2012 London Games.
JACKSON GETS HONOR
Seattle Storm star Lauren Jackson will carry the Australian flag at the opening ceremony.
Jackson, a three-time MVP in the WNBA, helped the Australians win the silver medal at the last three Olympics, finishing second to the United States in 2000, 2004 and 2008.
FLAG FLAP STILL WAVES
North Korea’s IOC member wants Olympic organizers to take steps to ensure there are no more mix-ups of national flags – especially at the medal ceremonies.
Chang Ung expressed his disappointment Thursday after the South Korean flag was mistakenly displayed on the giant screen before the women’s soccer game between North Korea and Colombia in Glasgow, Scotland, on Wednesday night.
The North Koreans refused to take the field for about an hour before the match went ahead. London organizers apologized.
“This should not have happened,” Chang told The Associated Press.
NO WORRIES, SAYS BOLT
Usain Bolt fessed up. It was his back.
The Olympic champion said a bad back has been causing him hamstring problems, leading to a pair of losses to training partner Yohan Blake at the Jamaican trials.
“It was a slight problem. I got that fixed and I’m ready to go,” Bolt said in his first formal media appearance of the London Games, where he was given the honor of carrying his country’s flag at the opening ceremony.
Michael Phelps insists there’s no hard feelings about teammate Tyler Clary questioning his work ethic. The potential rift within the U.S. swim team was apparently patched up when Clary apologized to Phelps in person and expressed regrets to the entire team regarding comments he made to a newspaper about Phelps’ “real lack of preparation.” … British scientists say a heat wave has caused London’s air quality to deteriorate, which could affect athletes’ performances at the Olympics. … World indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis failed a doping test and has withdrawn from the Olympics. … Discus thrower and medal contender Zoltan Kovago of Hungary has been banned for two years for a doping offense, also forcing him to miss the London Games. … Ann Curtis, a renowned swimmer who won two gold medals at the 1948 Olympics, the last time the event was held in London, has died of an Alzheimer’s-related illness. She was 86. … Jack Davis, a champion hurdler who won two Olympic silver medals in the 1950s, has died at 81 of complications from a fall. He finished second in the 110-meter hurdles at both the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Games.