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Originally published Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 3:52 AM

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EYES ON LONDON: Awaiting royals, empty-seat angst

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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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:

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APPETITE FOR ROWING

Yes, there were plenty of empty seats at the tennis and gymnastics on the opening day of the London Olympics. But the crowds continue to flock to the rowing regatta in Windsor.

A capacity crowd enjoyed a packed day of action on Saturday. And despite there being a shorter schedule 24 hours later, the grandstands were close to full by start of racing Sunday. There were even so-called "Mexican waves."

That's just for the early-morning repechages - where the lower-ranked rowers get a second chance to qualify for the later stages. There really is an appetite for rowing in Britain.

- Steve Douglas - Twitter http://twitter.com/sdouglas80

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AWAITING THE ROYALS

The stands are starting to fill up at Greenwich Park awaiting the Olympic equestrian debut of Zara Phillips, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II.

Phillips is third up Sunday morning in the dressage portion of the eventing competition, which also includes cross country and show jumping.

The VIP section so far is empty, but royals are expected to come cheer on the 31-year-old Phillips, who will be riding High Kingdom.

Aside from her grandmother, Phillips may count on cousins Princes William and Harry and William's wife Kate. Phillips' mother, Princess Anne, is not only president of the British Olympic committee but a member of the International Olympic Committee and a former equestrian eventing Olympian herself. Her father, Capt. Mark Phillips, is a coach on the American equestrian team and may catch a glimpse of his daughter as well.

Greenwich Park, where all equestrian events are taking place, dates from 1433 and is London's oldest royal park - as well as home to the Meridian Line. The main equestrian arena sits right in front of Queen's House, a 17th-century building built as a summer palace for Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of James I.

- Nicole Winfield - Twitter http://www.twitter.com/nwinfield

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BEATEN BY FEDERER

"I'm sad, because it's always difficult to lose, in any place and against any opponent. ... But it was Federer, he's the favorite and I gave everything on the court." - Colombian Alejandro Falla, beaten Saturday by Federer 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Writes AP's Christopher Torchia: "The startling momentum swing in the second set was a reminder of how even the game's greats can be vulnerable to a tenacious foe, and their own doubts."

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EMPTY-SEAT ANGST

Those empty seats you might be seeing in Olympic arenas? Officials aren't thrilled, and they want to know why.

Organizers are investigating why rows of seats at some venues, including the Aquatics Centre, were empty on Saturday, the first full day of competition at the London Games.

"Very disappointing," says Britain's culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt. He says venues and stadiums should be full to improve the atmosphere for athletes and spectators.

London organizers "are doing a full investigation into what happened," Hunt says. He says he believes the empty seats belonged to sponsors. The London Games organizing committee said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press it is looking into "who should have been sitting in the seats, and why they did not attend."

- Mike Corder - Twitter http://twitter.com/mikecorder

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ACTIVISTS ARRESTED

A scuffle between cycling activists and police outside the opening ceremony resulted in 182 arrests, officials said.

Four people have been charged with various offenses during Friday night's protest, while the rest were released pending further questioning, Scotland Yard said Sunday.

Police said that they were aware that a monthly protest by cyclists was planned for Friday but ordered the protesters to remain south of the River Thames. That was to keep them from blocking more than 80,000 ticket-holding guests from attending the Olympics opening ceremony. Those arrested tried to breach the Olympic Park's security cordon, officials said.

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STORMY WEATHER

It could be a stormy day for the Olympians.

U.K. weather forecaster the Met Office says there will be heavy thunder showers across central and east London on Sunday afternoon, with hailstones also a possibility.

The forecaster predicts that the thunder and showers will clear later Sunday, and that Monday will be mostly dry.

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FRIENDLY RIVALS

There appear to be no hard feelings between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte after the opening night at the pool in London. Phelps was routed by his American rival in the 400-meter individual medley, losing to Lochte by more than 4 seconds Saturday. Lochte won the gold, and Phelps came in fourth.

"Congrats to (at)RyanLochte," Phelps tweeted afterward. "Way to keep that title in the country where it belongs!!"

"Thanks," Lochte replied: "I couldn't do it without you."

- Paul Newberry - Twitter http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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REMEMBERING A CHAMPION

The memory of a late swimming champion looms large at the Olympic pool, especially as his best event - the 100-meter breaststroke - approaches Sunday.

Alexander Dale Oen of Norway died in April at age 26 from heart disease - months before he was to be the leading hope for Norwegian swimming gold in London. He won the world championship in the 100-meter breaststroke last July.

Some swimmers said they were dedicating their swims to Dale Oen.

"We're carrying him with us all the time," countrywoman Sara Nordenstam said following her heat in the 400-meter individual medley. She said the swimmers will honor him by "swimming fast and remembering him and remember everything that he taught us and go for the goals that we set together."

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

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THE REVIEWS ARE IN

The opening ceremony, particularly the queen's debut as a Bond girl, earned several positive reviews.

"I was worried that there was too much self-parody, that the world might be laughing at us," wrote columnist Giles Coren in The Times of London. "But they were laughing with us. They were silently awed."

He wasn't wrong.

"Often seen as reserved and unapproachable, the Queen changed all that alongside James Bond," wrote German newspaper Die Welt.

The 86-year-old Elizabeth greeted Bond actor Daniel Craig at Buckingham Palace and then appeared to fly to the stadium before parachuting to the ground. Moments later, the real Elizabeth appeared with husband Prince Philip to be greeted by the crowd.

The sequence has already provided the defining images of the games, according to Sydney's Daily Telegraph in Australia, where the queen also reigns.

"A few hundred years ago director Danny Boyle could have been sent to the Tower for even suggesting such treason," the newspaper said. "But as if to show how far England and the monarchy have come in that time, Her Majesty not only let Boyle get away with it. She was actually in on the joke."

- Rob Harris - Twitter http://twitter.com/RobHarris

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BYE-BYE BIKINIS

It's a cover-up. The cool London evening forced beach volleyball stars to forgo the traditional bikini attire for warmer clothes.

Two-time defending gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor of the United States wore long-sleeved shirts on top of bikini bottoms for their 21-18, 21-19 victory over Natalie Cook and Tasmin Hinchley, a match that started at 11 p.m. Saturday when the temperature was 63 degrees. The Australians wore long pants, with T-shirts under their bikini tops.

"It's cold," Walsh Jennings said, with a "what do you expect" look on her face. "It's 11 p.m. in London."

- Jimmy Golen - Twitter: http://twitter.com/jgolen

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QUEEN'S ENCORE

Queen Elizabeth II returned to Olympic Park for an encore performance after her film debut as the latest Bond Girl, riding to the top of the 377-foot (115-meter) Orbit tower and visiting with fawning British Olympians in the athletes village.

Dressed in a royal blue silk dress, crepe coat and matching hat, the queen could be heard remarking at the views of the London skyline and countryside. She wore a brooch given to her in 1948 - the last time London hosted the Olympics and four years before her accession to the throne.

"For her to come through and meet the athletes, and see where we're living, it was amazing," said Rose Anderson, 24, a member of the women's basketball team.

"She went inside one of the athletes' bedrooms and chatted to us. It was just awesome, especially after last night," she said.

- Shawn Pogatchnik - Twitter http://twitter.com/ShawnPogatchnik

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SOLO TWITTER SPAT

Outspoken U.S. goaltender Hope Solo isn't happy about former player Brandi Chastain's commentary on NBC, and she's tweeting about it.

At one point, Chastain pointed out that a defender's responsibilities are: "Defend. Win the ball. And then keep possession. And that's something that (U.S. defender) Rachel Buehler actually needs to, I think, improve on in this tournament."

After the game, Solo rattled off four tweets about Chastain. She told Chastain to "lay off commentating about defending" and goalkeeping "until you get more educated" and "the game has changed from a decade ago."

"I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute," tweeted Solo, adding that she likes NBC soccer announcer Arlo White.

Chastain is one of the top all-time defenders for the U.S. team. A spokesman for NBC said the network would have no comment and that Chastain was unavailable for comment.

- Joseph White - Twitter http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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SPARKLING SMILE

Those aren't pearly whites sparkling when U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte breaks out a smile. They're diamonds.

Lochte popped in his grillz - diamond-studded mouth jewelry - for the victory ceremony after winning a gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley.

And Lochte is hoping to win some more medals to go with his precious stones.

"This is my year," Lochte said. "I know it and I feel it, because I've put in hard work. I've trained my butt off for four years ... and there's no better way to start this Olympics off than getting gold."

- Paul Newberry - Twitter http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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EDITED FOR TELEVISION

A choreographer is unhappy that his somber opening-ceremony segment was bypassed by NBC, which instead showed American viewers an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps.

The segment was described as an "honest expression of the fear of approaching death." But some in the British press have interpreted it as being a tribute to victims of bomb attacks in July 2005 that killed 52 commuters and four suicide bombers on London's transit network. During the BBC live coverage of the ceremony, commentator Hazel Irvine made the connection while the dance was taking place: "The excitement of that moment in Singapore seven years ago when London won the games was tempered with great sorrow the very next day," when the terror attacks took place.

NBC said it had no indication that the segment was a reference to the terrorist attacks. Said choreographer Akram Khan, a Londoner: "I am really sad that I couldn't show the work in America, and that really upsets me, because I don't think it's any more or less than the other pieces. It brings to mind the question ... that maybe it's too truthful."

NBC aired the ceremony on a tape-delayed basis and made editing changes.

- David Bauder - Twitter http://twitter.com/dbauder

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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

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