Olympic wrap-up: The first two days before opening ceremonies

Agence France-Presse
Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps say they're ready, Japan upsets football favorites Spain, and North Korea athletes were furious after a flag mismatch. Here's a summary of the past two days.

BOLT IS READY. Usain Bolt says he is set to defend his title as the fastest man in the world. Photo from AFP.

LONDON – Usain Bolt insisted he was ready to defend his track sprint titles at the London Olympics Thursday, July 26 as Japan scored a stunning upset of world football champions Spain.

One day before the greatest sporting show on earth officially gets under way with a much-anticipated opening ceremony, Britain’s footballers were also held to a deflating draw by Senegal.

And swimming superstar Michael Phelps made final preparations for his tilt at Olympic history, when he will attempt to become the Games’ most decorated athlete.

On Friday, 80,000 VIPs and spectators will flock to the Olympic Stadium for a lavish curtain-raiser staged by Oscar-winning British movie director Danny Boyle.

Bolt, Phelps are ready

As athletes from across the globe converged on Olympic Park, a sprawling, purpose-built facility in east London, Beijing 2008 superstar Bolt fended off his critics after a troubled build-up.

“I’m always ready,” said Bolt, who scorched to world-record wins in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m four years ago in Beijing, but now has injury concerns and lost twice recently to Jamaican compatriot Yohan Blake.

“It’s all about championships. I’ve had slight problems, but I’m ready to go.”

However 25-year-old Bolt, Jamaica’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, admitted he had contemplated defeat in the sprints, which are packed with contenders including Blake, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell.

“I don’t think it will be the end of the world if I lose,” said Bolt. “I would definitely be disappointed if I was second. Mentally though I am always strong.”

Phelps said he had made minor changes since the US swimming trials, when he showed flashes of the form that took him to a record eight golds in 2008. Three more medals will take him to an unprecedented Olympic total of 19.

“I’m excited. I’m here to swim as fast as I can. If I do that everything else will fall into place,” said Phelps.

Football round-up

The sporting action kicked off with the opening matches of the women’s football tournament at venues across Britain on Wednesday, and on Thursday it was the men’s turn to take centerstage.

While hosts Britain were frustrated by Senegal, it was Japan who provided the story of the day with a remarkable 1-0 win over a talented Spanish side aiming to add Olympic gold to their World Cup and Euro crowns.

Yuki Otsu was the hero for the Japanese, prodding home on 34 minutes to secure a victory which evoked memories of Japan’s famous 1-0 win over Brazil in the Olympic tournament in 1996.

In Cardiff, Moussa Konate’s late leveller cancelled out Craig Bellamy’s strike and prevented Britain from making a winning start to their first appearance in an Olympic football tournament for 52 years.

Neymar-inspired Brazil cruised to a three-goal half-time lead against Egypt but the five-time world champions then had to fend off a second-half fightback before the match ended 3-2.

Angry, disappointing visitors

British Prime Minister David Cameron and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge meanwhile sought to draw a line under the gaffe which prompted North Korea’s protest ahead of their game with Colombia on Wednesday, July 25.

The North Koreans were furious after their players were introduced on an electronic screen alongside an image of the South Korean flag.

“This was an honest mistake, honestly made,” Cameron said. “An apology’s been made and I’m sure every step will be taken to make sure these things don’t happen again.”

Rogge said the incident was “most unfortunate” but was confident there would be no repeat.

Visiting US Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who headed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, also sparked a terse response from Cameron when he questioned whether London was ready for the Games.

“Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” Cameron fired back.

Four athletes — Turkish weightlifters Fatih Baydar and Ibrahim Arat, Greek world indoor high jump champion Dimitris Chondrokoukis and Hungarian discus thrower Zoltan Kovago — were meanwhile kicked out for doping offences. – Rappler.com