Michael Phelps and powerhouse rowing teams from Australia and Britain were the early highlights at the Olympics on Monday when London’s notoriously clogged roads appeared to handle the extra crush of traffic on the first business day of the games.
Phelps opened the defense of his Olympic title in the 200-meter butterfly with the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the preliminaries on Monday at the Aquatic Centre. Phelps has yet to have the quickest time in the morning heats at the London Games,four years after he won a record eight gold medals in Beijing.
“I’m pretty happy with that swim,” Phelps said. “That’s all I needed it to be.”
Phelps has won the 200 butterfly at the last two Olympics and set the world record at the 2009 world championships.
At the rowing regatta in Windsor,west of London,Australia issued a challenge to archrival Britain in the men’s four,setting an Olympic-best time in the heats to qualify fastest for the semifinals.
The flagship boats of both countries made their first appearances on Dorney Lake,with Australia making a bigger impression by winning the first heat in 5 minutes,47.06 seconds. That broke Germany’s Olympic best time from eight years ago in Athens by 1.46 seconds.
Britain,which has won this event at the last three games,clocked 5:50.27. If they both progress to the final on Saturday from Thursday’s semifinals,it will be the most eagerly anticipated race of the regatta given the history and rivalry of the countries in this event.
London’s overstretched transit system won what could be described as a silver medal or at least a podium performance for handling the strain of the extra traffic of the Olympics. Monday morning’s rush hour was the biggest test yet of the host city’s transport network,as spectators and tourists heading for the games joined the city’s workers during peak hour. The games opened Friday night.
An accident closed a section of the M4,the highway that links Heathrow Airport to London. The route,busy at the best of times,has been narrowed as it approaches the city with the creation of “Games Lanes” reserved for official Olympic traffic.
Sporting events are taking place across London,from the Olympic Park in the east to tennis at Wimbledon in the southwest,equestrian contests at Greenwich in the southeast and football at Wembley Stadium in the west.
Alin George Moldoveanu of Romania won the first gold medal of the day in the 10-meter air rifle. Moldoveanu beat top-ranked Niccolo Campriani of Italy in the final,scoring 103.1 to 102.5.
Gagan Narang of India won the bronze.
Later Monday under mostly sunny skies in London,Roger Federer and Serena Williams were set to be in action at the Olympic tennis tournament at Wimbledon and ever-dominant China looked to win its second straight gold medal in diving.
The big race at the pool on Monday night was set to be the men’s 200-meter freestyle. It features a loaded field,including Sun Yang of China,Park Tae-hwan of South Korea,American Ryan Lochte,Yannick Agnel of France and world record-holder Paul Biedermann of Germany.
With all that talk about speed,things moved slower overnight Sunday night when the 8.5-meter (28-foot) cauldron was moved about 150 meters (yards) inside the main stadium.
The cauldron was shifted from the middle of the stadium’s infield to an area near the opening ceremony bell to prepare for the track and field competition which begins Friday. To make the transition,the Olympic flame was taken from the cauldron and placed in a lantern while the cauldron was moved to the south end of the stadium.
The cauldron was reignited Monday morning by Austin Playfoot,a torchbearer from the 1948 Olympics when the games were last held in London and again this year.