London Spy

  • Sport guide: Football

    OVERVIEW:

    When it comes to the Olympics the preferred version of the game is association football rather than American football or Aussie rules, both of which have appeared as demonstration sports.

    For the hosts though it's more a case of political football. Great Britain has not competed in the Olympic qualifying competition since 1974 and has not contested the finals since 1960. Preparations for 2012 have taken place against a backdrop of the football authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales objecting to the formation of a united side because of fears they may lose

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  • Tweddle poses with women's floor and uneven bars gold medals at the 2010 Euros

    Beth Tweddle heads into her final Olympic Games safe in the knowledge that she is already considered to be the most successful British gymnast of all time.

    However, Tweddle, who will be 27 by the start of London 2012, knows that she still has something to prove on the greatest sporting stage of them all.

    As one of the most consistent performers in the uneven bars and floor disciplines, she has surpassed all expectations by claiming three world championship gold medals, one World Cup Final gold medal and six gold medals in the European championships since 2006.

    Last year's world championships

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  • Adams at the Strandja Cup in Sofia

    When Nicola Adams steps into the ring at London 2012, she may look familiar.

    The 29-year-old from Leeds has had a stop-start journey to this year's Olympics, where women's boxing will make its debut.

    During the wilderness years, where she found it difficult to find opponents that would allow her to test her potential, Adams acted as an extra in television soap operas.

    However, since she first stepped into a boxing gym at the age of 12, Adams has been focused on higher ambitions.

    In 2003 she became English amateur champion — a title she defended successfully for the following three years.

    In

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  • Inside the Olympic Village apartments

    Jonathan Edwards inside a finished apartment

    Pictures inside the basic accommodation where superstars like David Beckham and Usain Bolt could stay during the Olympics have been released for the first time.

    The Olympic apartments all come with flat-pack furniture and single beds, but staying in the Olympic Village is often seen as an essential experience for even the most celebrated athletes.

    At the last Games in Beijing Rafael Nadal and Lionel Messi were among those who stayed in the provided accommodation, which is always much closer to student digs than a lavish hotel.

    2,818 apartments on the north-east boundary of the Olympic Park in

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  • Venue guide: St James' Park

    St James' holds 52,000 spectatorsWhere is it?: Strawberry Place, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

    How do you get there?: As the stadium is located right in the city centre, the advice is to use public transport if at all possible. The main National Rail station is only 10 minutes south of the ground, while there are three Metro stops — Haymarket, Monument and Central — nearby and several bus routes as well.

    Capacity: 52,339.

    What events will be held there and when?: Football (July 26, 29, 31, August 1, 3 and 4).

    Public facilities: If you don't like the plentiful fare inside the stadium, there are many pubs, restaurants, cafes and

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  • Contest winner to open Olympic Stadium

    London's new Olympic Stadium will be opened officially by one lucky winner from a 40,000-strong audience at a special ticketed event on May 5.

    One individual from the audience would be "brought into the middle of the Stadium to officially open the venue."

    The ceremony will follow the last hour of the British Universities and Colleges Sport championships, the first test event at the £500 million stadium in east London.

    "This is a great opportunity for people to experience the venue that will take centre stage this summer," said LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe.

    "As well as a great evening of

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  • Sport guide: Equestrian

    OVERVIEW:

    One of the few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms, equestrian events first appeared in the schedule in 1900 and included high jump and long jump contests.

    The sport was then dropped until 1912, when dressage and eventing were introduced, and the format has barely changed since, except for the admission of women, who took part in 1900, were then excluded until 1952 and have competed in all events since 1964.

    The entire equestrian competition was held separately from the rest of the Games in 1956, Australia's quarantine laws preventing Melbourne from staging

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  • Sport guide: Fencing

    Fencing is one of the five sports to have featured at every Olympics, although women only competed from 1924.

    At the London Games, 10 events will be contested with individual foil, épée and sabre contests for men and women, team foil and sabre for men and team foil and épée for women.

    Each individual fencing bout lasts for three rounds of three minutes each. In foil and épée, points are scored by hitting the opponent with the tip of the weapon. In sabre hits can also be scored with the edge of the blade. In épée, both fencers can score points at the same time, but in foil and sabre only one

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  • Olympic history: Berlin 1936

    1936 hero Owens begins the sprint

    Having missed out on the chance to host the 1916 Olympic Games because of the First World War, Berlin stepped up 20 years later as a second global conflict loomed.

    Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor, seized the opportunity to promote his belief of racial supremacy. But the supreme athlete of these Games turned out to be Jesse Owens, a black American who won four gold medals.

    Some commentators suggested Hitler lavished money on the Games because he fully expected Berlin to host them permanently. He built a new track and field stadium with a 100,000 capacity, six gyms and many small arenas.

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  • Halsall wins 50m free at the 2012 British Championships

    Fran Halsall is well aware that she will need to produce the performance of her life if she is to realise her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal on home soil.

    And in a sport where margins are so fine, the freestyle and butterfly swimmer, who will be 22 by the start of the Games, is within touching distance of fulfilling her goal.

    At the 2011 World Championship in Shanghai, Halsall was the fastest qualifier for the 100 metres freestyle final. However, in the final itself, Halsall finished fourth despite coming in just 0.3 seconds behind the winner.

    The Loughborough swimmer, who at 5ft 7in

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