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London cheers Olympic torch in final hours before opening day

Story highlights

  • London has sunny, warm weather
  • The torch goes past Big Ben and other London landmarks
  • U.S. lawmakers hold a moment of silence for the slain Israeli athletes
  • Spain suffers a shock defeat as men's football kicks off

Sunny, warm weather embraced London on Thursday amid last-minute preparations for the Summer Olympic Games, now less than 24 hours away.

Crowds cheered on the Olympic torch as it wound its way past some of the capital's most famous landmarks.

The torch began its journey in Britain on May 19 at Land's End, the most southwest point of England, and trekked through more than 1,000 cities, towns and villages in the United Kingdom. By the time it reaches the Olympic Stadium, 8,000 torchbearers -- both celebrities and residents alike -- will have carried it.

Early Olympic football matches continued Thursday, with men's teams playing a day after the women's teams.

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Torch goes past palace, Big Ben

Runners carried the golden-colored Olympic torch past iconic London landmarks Thursday as the torch relay got ever closer to the Olympic Stadium for Friday's opening ceremony.

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After the torch passed by the 300-year-old St. Paul's Cathedral, wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan carried the flame across the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames.

Crowds joined British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife as the torch reached the doorstep of their Downing Street home. Next, the torch went past the Big Ben clock tower, carried by 81-year-old native Londoner Florence Rowe, who says she fondly remembers the excitement of the 1948 London Olympics.

The last major stop was Buckingham Palace, where Prince William, his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry greeted the torchbearers.

U.S. lawmakers remember Munich killings

Sixteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a moment of silence Thursday to honor the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics and urged Olympic leaders to hold a similar moment of silence at Friday's opening ceremony.

American Jewish leaders and the widow of one of the Israeli athletes have made a similar plea.

The International Olympic Committee says it will honor the slain athletes at a ceremony in September for the 40th anniversary, but so far there are no plans for an official remembrance Friday.

The Israeli athletes were killed after eight Palestinian terrorists disguised in track suits broke into the Olympic Village in Munich, demanding the release of 200 Arab inmates from Israeli prisons.

Men's football kicks off

While the Games will officially begin with the cauldron lighting at ceremony Friday at Olympic Stadium, some events have already begun.

Thursday saw the start of the men's football competition, with global favorites Spain and Brazil playing, though not against each other.

Spain, which won the European Championship this year and the last World Cup, suffered a surprising 1-0 defeat to Japan in one of eight games scheduled Thursday.

Spain suffer shock defeat to Japan

Brazil -- which, like Spain, is considered a likely contender to win Olympic gold -- beat Egypt 3-2. Great Britain, playing football in the Olympics for the first time since 1960, scored a 1-1 draw in its match against Senegal.

Two notable absences are Argentina and the United States, neither of which qualified.


Border guards call off strike

British border guards called off a planned strike. A strike would have been disastrous at a time when more than 100,000 people a day are arriving at London's Heathrow Airport for the Games, and adequate security continues to be a concern.

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The union representing the guards said it backed off after the government agreed to create more than 1,000 jobs in response to its demands. The Home Office, which employs border staff, said it made no concessions.

North Korea walks off

Wednesday was also a day of women's football matches. North Korea's team walked off the pitch before its clash with Colombia after the flag of neighboring country -- and archrival -- South Korea was mistakenly shown on Hampden Park's big screen as it displayed player profiles.

Organizers issued a hasty apology, and the team returned to start the game an hour later. It won 2-0.

"Clearly this is a mistake, we will apologize to the team and the national Olympic committee and steps will be taken to ensure this does not happen again," organizers said in a statement.

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In other women's football matches, Team Great Britain gave the host nation a rousing start to the festivities with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in front of 25,000 fans -- the biggest attendance for a women's international match in Britain.

Defending champion Team USA beat France 4-2. Current FIFA Women's World Cup holder Japan won its opening match against Canada 2-1, while Brazil thumped Cameroon 5-0 and Sweden beat South Africa 4-1.

Greek athlete sent off

In the day's other controversy, Greek athlete Paraskevi Papachristou was expelled from the country's Olympic team for posting an offensive comment about African immigrants on Twitter.

"With so many Africans in Greece, the mosquitoes from the West Nile will at least be eating some homemade food," she said on Twitter.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee ruled Papachristou, a triple jumper, would be barred, saying, "She made a mistake but it was serious. It was unforgivable."

Papachristou apologized, calling the comment an "unfortunate and tasteless joke."

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