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London 2012 Diary

Aug 2, 2012

London 2012 Diary

Lord Coe - You Could Be Better Than This

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London Games organising committee, made a bizarre statement to a local paper regarding American swimmer Michael Phelps.

While he acknowledged that the 27 year-old was "the most successful Olympian" - he refused to name him the greatest - saying "his 19 medals is a pretty good haul but whether he is the greatest, I don't know."

"Who is the greatest Olympian? I could throw out a series of names."

He didn't though, and one wonders how exactly does Coe measure Olympic excellence? As the winner of gold and silver medals himself in Moscow and Los Angeles in the 800 and 1500 on the track, he should know the herculean effort that goes into winning them.

Phelps has been collecting Olympic hardware over three Olympics - and has the most career medals of anyone in the world at 19, with a total of 15 gold. That number could easily rise by tonight.

He's also completely prepared to come to a London Games and make himself vulnerable in 7 events - a test of true courage and racing passion.

It's a common theme from the world of track & field: unless it's a runner, jumper, or a thrower, it doesn't really count. As many a track and field site says today, the Games only begin tomorrow, when events get underway in the stadium. As we know in the pool, that's hogwash.

We wish Lord Coe well on his journey to the top seat of the IOC - may he have the stamina for the long haul.

Latynina Passes the Crown

Legendary Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, 77, and for the past 48 years the Olympian with the greatest medal haul in history (18), today called Michael Phelps "the world's greatest Olympian" after the American swimmer claimed his 19th career medal, a record 15 gold among them, in the 4x200m freestyle relay last night.

"I think that keeping the Olympic world record for 48 years is long enough," the Ukraine-born Latynina, here at the Games, told Reuters. "I'm very pleased that a new, very talented Olympian has appeared and finally broken my record."

Latynina, who met with Phelps this morning, competed in three Olympics in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964). Her 18 medals included nine gold.

She also had words of thanks for the Baltimore champion: "Michael is now the world's greatest Olympian. By the way, I'm very thankful to Michael because thanks to him, I again have become quite famous for the past 12 months. I wish he will keep the record for many decades to come."

 The age of enlightenment 

 In a fine New York Times columnn - Aaron Peirsol, one of the all-time greats of backstroke swimming and in town as an ambassador for the suit maker than sponsored him, arena - provides his perspective on suits, mindsets, age and awareness. "It is one incredible thing to break a record or win a medal. It is something wholly unique for an athlete to consistently do that over an extended career. There are elements of adaptation and intelligence that transcend any one single performance," he writes. "Ultimately, neither youth nor experience is the more advantageous, and that is the point. It is merely accepting what stage in your career you are and harnessing those strengths. It takes a unique athlete to embrace all of sport’s challenges. The body can do much, but if the mind is not there, then it doesn’t matter where the body is." Read his words in full 

Follow our headlines and news snippets at @swimnewscom

Papa Le Clos' Interview with BBC Goes Viral

Every night brings a new raft of Olympic moments - but the consensus on the Twittersphere on Tuesday night after finals was that this one took the cake.

Just minutes after South African Chad Le Clos denied Michael Phelps gold in the 200 butterfly, the BBC's Clare Balding sat down with his father  Bert Le Clos to talk about the surprising victory.

The man was understandably ecstatic and couldn't stop saying "unbelievable, unbelievable" - and was often unintelligible due to a strong Afrikaans accent in English. But it was the expletive and a realisation that he was live that made the moment all the more memorable.  As one enthusiastic viewer said: "a must-watch interview and the sort of thing you'd never see in the United States because some NBC producer would freak out and cut away early". Balding handled it all with flare, as did Bert Le Clos.

World's Most Decorated Olympian Turned Down

Tonight's the night it could happen, and she wanted to be here to see it for herself.

Larisa Latynina is the world's most decorated Olympian - owner of 18 Olympic medals, nine of them gold. As a gymnast she won six medals for the Soviet Union in Melbourne in 1956, then six more in Rome in 1960, then another six in Tokyo in 1964.

And 48 years later, at 77 years of age, the time had come when she might see that record fall.

US swimmer Michael Phelps has two chances at a medal tonight - the 200 fly and the 4x200 free relay. If he medals in both that will take his total to 19.

In fact Latynina even offered to be here to actually hand Phelps his 19th medal. She apparently met Phelps earlier this year at an event in New York.

"He made a very good impression," she told a British newspaper. "He's very human. And what I see about him, I think he's very talented. I think he will beat my record."

Sadly, and typically, however, the International Olympic Committee declined. Far more important for blazers to present medals and flowers than the outstanding athletes who have made their cause great.

Latynina is reported to have taken it with composure - and plans to watch women's gymnastics instead.  She has tickets for the last night of swimming on Saturday.

Ticket Scramble

Renate Bauer, triple world champion for East Germany in 1973, is visiting London to attend some of the Games action with her daughter Maria. It's a thrill to experience a competition of this level together, but the efforts the two had to put into getting tickets were considerable.

"We ordered them over a year ago," she said, "and at the time it was impossible to tell if they were for heats and finals. When we had some in our shopping basket online and I was fully convinced that if I had a ticket for the breaststroke, it would be for heats and finals. Not only did one ticket disappear from our shopping basket before we could purchase, but when we did secure a a couple they were only for heats."

They took what they could get, however, and her daughter attended the heats session alone on Day 2 of the swimming, only to sit in a row of empty seats.

"It's a scandal that something like that happens, that people who really want to see certain events are kept away by block purchases," Renate said, "that then get sold off later directly in front of the venues - where you can't even get to if you don't have a ticket!"

"And then to hear that whole rows of seats are empty - that really hurts," she said.

"I then waited an hour at a ticket booth only to be told that there were none available," she went on, "and they didn't even have a system to offer me tickets for some other sport."

Luck was on their side though, and late on Day 2 her daughter - who has several constant purchase orders in perennially in progress on her iPhone - scored a couple of tickets for swimming heats - at 60 pounds a piece.

Better than nothing - and Maria's perseverence also secured impromptu tickets to diving and hockey. So far they've watched swimming finals sessions at Hyde Park on big screens and in a pub at Westfield Mall next to the venue.

"It was great," Renate enthused. "We sat with a group of Venezuelans who were so thrilled about seeing their relay team swim - that kind of excitement is absolutely fascinating. That's the Olympics."