London hopes for sunshine and full stadiums

Organisers will hope for fuller stadiums and drier weather to keep up the momentum of the London Olympics.

London Olympics venue Eton Manor. Picture: London

LONDON - Organisers will hope for fuller stadiums and drier weather to keep up the momentum of the London Olympics on Monday as some of swimming's great names slug it out in a heavyweight men's freestyle clash.

Sports fans from all over Britain, who had been charmed by the Olympic publicity offensive but let down by a complex ballot system for the 8.8 million tickets, have been outraged by footage of empty seats at some of the hottest events including tennis, swimming and gymnastics.

Organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe said the missing spectators were mostly officials from sports federations, other Games officials or their families and friends.

He said organisers were trying to fill spare seats by inviting local children and teachers to use spare tickets, selling more tickets and upgrading other ticketholders.

Many of the seats at Sunday's gymnastics were filled by soldiers taking a break from Olympic security duties.

Those who did witness Sunday's action could have had few complaints about two world records in the pool, a dazzling exhibition from the U.S. basketball team and dramatic upsets in gymnastics and the men's 4x100 freestyle relay.

Even the stormy weather, which held up the tennis and equestrian competitions and drenched thousands of spectators, provided its own drama in the women's cycling road race.

Monday sees one of the most anticipated races in the pool, the 200 freestyle where American Ryan Lochte, Sun Yang of China and France's Yannick Agnel will all chase a second London gold.

Lochte won gold in the 400 individual medley, trouncing his compatriot Michael Phelps, Sun triumphed in the 400 freestyle and Agnel overhauled Lochte to clinch a shock gold for France with a devastating surge on the last length of Sunday's 4x100 relay.


Monday's race includes world record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany and South Korea's Park Tae-hwan and could decide bragging rights over who is the best male swimmer at the Games.

Also up for grabs are the men's 100 backstroke, where Matt Grevers of the U.S. qualified fastest, the women's 100 backstroke where Australia's Emily Seebohm almost broke the world record in qualifying, and the women's 100 breaststroke where 15-year-old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte leads the field.

On Sunday, South Africa's Cameron Van der Burgh and American Dana Vollmer set world records in the men's 100 breaststroke and women's 100 butterfly respectively, both erasing times set in 2009 before buoyancy-boosting polyurethane bodysuits were banned.

Van der Burgh became the first South African male to win individual Olympic swimming gold.

Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, trying to be the first male swimmer to win gold in the same event at three successive Olympics, could only finish fifth.

There was a further pool gold for France when top-ranked Camille Muffat won the women's 400 freestyle.

Phelps's silver in the relay was his first in these Games, to go with 14 previous golds and two bronzes, and left him one shy of the all-time record of 18 held by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.

Monday's weather is forecast to be sunny but British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead could not have been happier with the rainstorms that helped her land the host nation's first medal of the games, a silver.


"What a ride by Lizzie, she was doing a rain dance this morning, praying for rain. You think I'm kidding - she really was," Team GB performance director David Brailsford told reporters.

Armitstead joined Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya and red-hot pre-race favourite Marianne Vos in a bold breakaway 50km from home and, with the downpours weakening the resolve of the chasers, narrowly lost the final sprint to the Dutchwoman.

The result meant relief for Britain but also for Vos who has a host of other titles but was desperate for road gold after finishing second in the last five road race world championships.

Overall, China took a commanding early lead in the rankings with 12 medals, six of them gold, ahead of the United States on 11 medals including three golds.

China's Guo Wenjun retained her Olympic title in the 10 metre air pistol shooting on Sunday while compatriots Wu Minxia and He Zi took their expected easy gold in the women's synchronised three-metre springboard diving.

The Chinese team can expect to add another gold by Yuan Cao and Yanquan Zhang in the 10-metre synchronised platform diving on Monday and the squad will also try to challenge the American favourites for the men's gymnastics team gold.

The latest U.S. basketball 'Dream Team', this time featuring LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, began their title defence with a slick 98-71 defeat of France, drawing 'oohs' from the crowd with no-look assists, thunderous dunks and sublime handling.

South Korea's women extended their domination of Olympic archery by winning a seventh straight team gold although they needed a near-perfect nine from their last arrow to overcome China who took their third successive silver.

But there was nothing near perfection from U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber, the world champion who fled from reporters as her dreams of landing the all-round Olympic crown were shattered.

A scrappy floor routine and a far-below-par balance beam display meant it was her team mates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman who qualified instead for the individual final.