U.S. And China Leading Medal Count In London

Jul 30, 2012
Originally published on July 30, 2012 4:46 pm
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At the Olympics today, Americans tried to medal in swimming and men's gymnastics with mixed results. Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know what happened, tune out for the next four minutes. OK. NPR's Mike Pesca joins us from London with the latest Olympics news. Hi there, Mike. Let's start with the pool. Ryan Lochte swam the 200-meter freestyle. How'd he do?

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: He didn't do well. He lost to the same fellow who chased him down in the 4x100 race the other day. That was Yannick Agnel of France. Lochte's been a little bit disappointing. Though some Americans did very well in the backstroke, the 100 meters, Matt Grevers and Nick Thoman came in one, two. Grevers actually set an Olympic record.

CORNISH: Another swimming star name people might be familiar with, 17-year-old Missy Franklin was looking for gold today. What happened for her?

PESCA: She found it. She found it. Hundred meter backstroke. The 17-year-old from Colorado delivered.

And another great story from the Olympics - not an American this time, but another teenager. Fifteen-year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania won the 100 meter breaststroke. Rebecca Soni of the U.S. came in second and this Meilutyte - sometimes, after a great event, the Olympian is interviewed and it's wonderful because they're so eloquent, but she was wonderful because she had nothing to say. She just gasped and put her hand over her mouth and her fingers were painted the colors of the Lithuanian flag. It was really quite wonderful.

CORNISH: Now, today was also the men's gymnastics team finals, so talk about that team. How are they this year?

PESCA: Well, the U.S. team came into the final. The team final is the number one qualifier and they really flopped. It happens. You know, no one's casting aspersions here, but one of the best gymnasts, Danell Leyva, he just fell on the pommel horse and John Orozco, after a vault, he sort of put his hands wrong and then he fell right on his butt. And a mistake here or there or a few mistakes really add up and it added up to a U.S. fifth place finish.

China was so good in this event that let's not even talk about them. They came in first. No one challenged them, but there was great drama for who would come in second, who would come in third and would Great Britain get a medal? They haven't medalled in men's gymnastics in a century, so they're part of the group that's in the very last ones to go and they put together a great floor exercise. As a team, they won floor. And Kristian Thomas, you know, blows the roof off the center that used to be called O2 and is now called the North Greenwich Arena because O2 is not a sponsor of the Olympics, so you can't call it O2.

So the crowd goes nuts and Great Britain is in second place. There's one more gymnast to go. He's the best gymnast in the world, the great Kohei Uchimura. He's on the pommel horse, but he does not have a good routine and, in his dismount, he doesn't stick it at all. He kind of stumbles a little bit. His score comes on the board. It's a 13. Great Britain has won the silver medal, but hold on. There's an inquiry. Japan, by the way, at this point, is fourth.

And they went back and they looked at Uchimura's routine and it turns out that he should have gotten a few more points. They re-rank everyone. Great Britain is now third. They win a bronze. The crowd is still happy, but I have to tell you, about five seconds after Great Britain got bumped down from silver to bronze, they made an announcement. And now, let's all thank your game officials. Let me tell you, the game officials were not thanked at that point.

CORNISH: Yikes. Now, Mike, there's been this mini scandal about empty seats at Olympic events, which I mean, it's a scandal, really, because people were told that events were sold out, so give us the update.

PESCA: Events are sold out, but the definition of sold out isn't every seat is accounted for. It's about 80 percent, 75 percent of the seats that the public can buy gets accounted for and then there are allotments, so some countries get them. The Olympics family gets them. I'm doing the air quotes now. Inverted parentheses, as they say here. And that part of it has really fallen down and it looks terrible on TV when you see in these sought after events that people are dying to get tickets for, rows and rows of empty seats.

Olympic organizers said this would not stand. We are going to name and shame those who abuse this policy. You know, this is diplomacy, though. You can't really name and shame, but they have done what they can. I'll read you the headline from the London Evening Standard: Now We Can Buy Empty VIP Seats.

At the gymnastics arena - and this was one of the venues with a seating problem in the past - at the gymnastics venue, a lot of soldiers were in the seats. There weren't that many empty seats today.

CORNISH: NPR's Mike Pesca talking with us from London. Mike, thank you.

PESCA: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.