• Disabled visitors face high hurdles to London Olympics

    Andrew Yates / AFP-Getty Images file

    Tanni Grey-Thompson waves to the crowd after her last-ever race in the T53 200 meters in 2007.

    Courtesy of Laura Hamilton

    Laura Hamilton exits a double-decker bus in London.

    Courtesy of Laura Hamilton

    Laura Hamilton in the handicapped section of a double-decker bus in London.

    Courtesy of Laura Hamilton

    Laura Hamilton exits a double-decker bus in London.

    The Olympic and Paralympic Games — which London has promised will be the most accessible and inclusive ever — are just weeks away. All sports venues are fully equipped for disabled visitors, but many city-goers with physical impairments say they still feel like second-class citizens on public transport.

    “I am shocked at how disabled I am here; I have never felt so handicapped,” said Laura Hamilton, a 28-year-old American with muscular dystrophy living in London.

    “I’m scared to go out on my own,” said the Californian, who quit her job in San Francisco and moved to Britain in March “to see the world” before her condition deteriorates.

    Courtesy of Laura Hamilton

    Laura Hamilton in the handicapped section of a double-decker bus in London.

    The London Underground is by far the fastest way to get around the city, but with just a handful of stations in the historic heart of the capital offering step-free access, Hamilton said “it’s more of a novelty for wheelchair users.”

    All black cabs are accessible, but using taxis or a car as a primary form of transportation is prohibitively expensive for most residents, so wheelchair users rely heavily on buses.

    But Hamilton, who uses a small electric scooter, said that “most times the drivers don’t want to pull into the curb so I’m told I can’t get on at all.”

    Paralympian crawls off train
    Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 11 gold medals for Great Britain in five Paralympic Games and is a board member of Transport for London (TFL), the city's group responsible for the transportation system, described how she recently had to crawl off a train. 

    “My train was late into Kings Cross Station and the station had pretty much closed and there was no one who came to get me,” said the parliamentarian and TV presenter, who was born with spina bifida.

    “So I got out of my chair, pushed my chair off, and crawled out of the train and got back into it,” she said.

    Despite that incident and other cases of being “forgotten” on long-distance trains, the athlete said the situation within London has improved greatly in recent years.

    Andrew Yates / AFP-Getty Images file

    Tanni Grey-Thompson waves to the crowd after her last-ever race in the T53 200 meters in 2007.

    “But people coming from countries like the U.S. and Canada will find it a bit more tricky,” she said.

    Dating back to 1863, the London Underground is the oldest metropolitan railway in the world. Disabled access renovations only began after a wheelchair ban was lifted less than 20 years ago.

    TFL, which is run by the mayor, scrapped its promise to make a quarter of stations step free by 2010 and a third by 2013.

    Now, 65 of the 270 stations have step free access from street to platform, but most of those still have a gap between the platform and train.

    Wheelchair access will be available at locations key to the Games — Stratford for the Olympic Park, Southfields for tennis at Wimbledon, and Green Park for equestrian events — but, not at the vast majority of tourist hot spots, including Piccadilly Circus, Notting Hill, and Covent Garden.

    Grey-Thompson said upgrades had to be chosen carefully as “it costs more than 100 million pounds to make a central London station wheelchair-accessible.”

    ‘Left to the side of the road’
    Meanwhile, the bus system was completely overhauled in 2007.

    “Our bus fleet is the most accessible fleet in the world — with every one of our 8,500 buses low-floor wheelchair-accessible and fitted with ramps,” said Wayne Trevor, Accessibility Manager for TFL. However, only 60 percent of bus stops are fully accessible.

    “We get a lot of complaints from wheelchair users left to the side of the road,” said Lianna Etkind, Campaigns and Outreach Coordinator for disabled rights group Transport for All.

    Californian Hamilton said she often feels like a “third-class citizen” as her husband begs drivers to let her on and one in four drive away without her.

    “Drivers are definitely required to pick up disabled passengers,” TFL said in an email response, adding that passengers are encouraged to lodge complaints which can result in driver retraining or dismissal.

    The installation of tactile paving and audio-visual displays has assisted blind and deaf passengers, but recession-induced staff cuts have made it harder to receive personal assistance.

    Carole Cherrington, a blind 43-year-old who has lived in London her entire life, took the Underground on her own for the first time in March. She said she had to rely on a stranger to get to her destination and found the journey “extremely distressing.”

    TFL has since provided her with a “travel buddy” free of charge, but she said: “I feel excluded by society in being able to get around independently; I hope having the Paralympics here will bring more awareness.”

    Michael Theobold, who is profoundly deaf, said that he had encountered dangerous situations when he couldn’t hear last-minute audio announcements.

    The 64-year-old former teacher recalled in an email interview that he was unable to hear a warning to move along the track at Marble Arch station.

    “There was a sudden surge of people and I was very nearly knocked off balance on to the electrified track,” he said.

    ‘An army of volunteers’
    Transport for London is eager to ensure that the Olympics run without a hitch.

    “An army of volunteers will be drafted in to assist our operations during Games time,” TFL said in an email.

    Scores of extra buses, manual track-to train ramps, and fast-response elevator engineers will also be brought in.

    Transport for All’s Etkind said she was hopeful that the extra resources would help disabled visitors get around the city successfully. 

    “It’s great that TFL is improving access to the Underground during the Olympics and Paralympics. But access and inclusion isn’t just for Games time, it’s for life,” she said.

    More: Londoners express hopes, frustrations as Olympics come to town 
    Now towering over London's Olympic Park: 'The Godzilla of public art'  

    Jennifer Carlile was a senior writer and editor for msnbc.com’s news team, enjoying nearly a decade of reporting from Great Britain, continental Europe, and her hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii. She is now a freelance writer living in London.

  • Londoners express hopes, frustrations as Olympics come to town

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Reuters photographer Stefan Wermuth set out this month to talk to a cross-section of Londoners to gauge their feelings about the Olympic Games coming to their city this summer.

    Wandering the streets of Balham, Westminster, The City, Brixton, Wandsworth, Shoreditch, Battersea, Lambeth and Chelsea with his camera and a basic voice recorder, he met all kinds of different people and encountered a diverse range of opinions.

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Charley Osborne, a 75 year-old ex-serviceman who has lived in London for fifteen years, stands outside a pub in central London. When asked what he felt about London hosting the Olympics, Osborne said "It's good for London and good for Londoners. I'm not worried about security. We have the best security in the world." 

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Deborah Blackstock, a 34 year-old mother who has lived all her life in London, poses for a picture in Shoreditch. Asked about the city hosting the Games, Blackstock said "It's a brilliant idea but I'm worried about the traffic." 

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    "It's very nice. Business will be up," said Sadiq Mohammad, a 69 year-old stallholder in Brixton who has lived in the city for eight years. 

    Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

    Karina Zamarska, a 23 year-old actress who has lived in London for five years, was more skeptical. "For London it's obviously not good because so many people will be here" she said. "The tourists will be asking me questions all the time." 

    Related content:

  • Jamaica's fastest woman aims for gold at Summer Olympics

    By Clare Duffy and Sopan Deb
    Rock Center

    She’s already one of the fastest women on the planet, but Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce hopes to make history as the fastest at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

    “The thing with success is, when you get it you want it,” Fraser-Pryce told Rock Center with Brian Williams. “I think that the last couple of years have actually made me more hungry than I was, and now that I realize my potential and I realize that I can do so much … once I push myself to the limit, maybe I can do that much better.”

    COUNTDOWN TO LONDON 2012

    Fraser-Pryce, 25, won the Olympic gold medal at the 2008 summer games in Beijing, China, where she crushed her competition in the 100-meter race. Her winning time –10.78 seconds – was the fastest winning time since 1988. She was also the first Jamaican woman to win gold in the 100 meter dash.

    Fraser-Pryce’s win helped Jamaica become the first country to claim all the individual sprinting gold medals since the United States in 1912. However, her success was not a foregone conclusion.

    “When I got to the Olympics, I wasn’t thinking about winning a gold medal,” she said. “They were saying I should not run because I am too young, and I am new and I need more experience.”

    Now, seasoning is not a question. In 2009, Fraser-Pryce won gold in Berlin at the World Track & Field Championships with a time of 10.73 and was for a short while the "World's Fastest Woman" until Carmelita Jeter of the United States ran the fastest time of the modern era in 2011 at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix with a 10.64.

    The track star hopes to regain that title this summer in London.

    Almost continuously flashing a bright smile, Fraser-Pryce told Rock Center that she rose from poverty on the street of Waterhouse, an inner city in Kingston, "where a lot of crime and everything bad you can think about happen there."

    She became a serious track runner as a young adult while attending the University of Technology in Jamaica and credits her "strong-headed" mother as a positive presence in her life.

    “What I liked about my mother was the fact that she made do with what she had,” Fraser said.

    “There were times I wanted to wear nice sneakers to school but I couldn’t afford to wear [them],” she said, adding that her friends would laugh at her when she showed up at school wearing her church shoes with jeans.

    “I’d be like, ‘OK,’ and I’d tell them that was the style,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I tell them it’s my style.”

    To qualify for a spot on the team that will attend the Olympics, Fraser-Pryce will first battle several strong Jamaican female sprinters, including two-time Olympic 200m gold medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown. Fraser-Pryce is expected to make the team and join a strong contingent of Jamaican sprinters, all of whom are capable of winning gold. 

     

  • Brendan Hansen hopes to get back in the (Olympic) swim

    Jason Devaney / NBC Universal

    Brendan Hansen and Elizabeth Beisel, taking a dip in the TODAY plaza pool.

    With 64 days to go until the London Olympic Games, two hopefuls counted down by taking a lap around the pool — on the TODAY plaza.

    Swimmers Brendan Hansen and Elizabeth Beisel joined Natalie Morales in the water to talk about their bids for a spot on Team USA.

    Hansen, 30, was rumored to retire after winning a gold medal in Beijing.

    “I think after 2008 I decided I was going to retire,” he said. “Triathlons kind of took over my life and then I realized that I was in the fittest shape I could possibly be in. So here I am, I’m ready to go to the Olympic Games. I just knew that I couldn’t stay at home and watch it on TV.”

    Hansen, a former world record-holder for breaststroke and a four-time Olympic medalist, won silver in Athens for the 100-meter breaststroke, bronze for 200-meter breaststroke and a gold in the medley relay. He went on to win another gold in relay in Beijing. Today, he has new goals for London.

    “Maybe beat that,” he told Morales. “We have a very strong team going to London, we’re excited about that, we’re probably the strongest we’ve ever had. It’s going to be an exciting time to be there, be part of it; it’s going to be an exciting time to be in a USA sport.”

    Jason Devaney / NBC Universal

    Brendan Hansen and Elizabeth Beisel, taking a dip in the TODAY plaza pool.

    Elizabeth Beisel, the youngest member of the U.S. swim team in Beijing at the age of 15, is now 19. Just seconds shy of the podium in Beijing, Beisel says she’s looking to win a medal this time around. “I don’t care what color,” she said.

    Beisel said watching Michael Phelps get his 8th gold medal was a big part of making her Beijing experience so special. Hansen, who was part of the relay team that helped Phelps win, couldn't help but take credit: “I’m the reason,” he joked.

    Hansen knew the stakes were high in that competition. “I think I was swimming for the USA but everybody wanted to see (Phelps) win that eighth gold medal.” Swimming that day, he said, “every one of us was like, ‘Do not screw this up.’”

    Now back in the water, the breaststroker’s odds are looking good. He’s bringing his recent national championship wins to the pool, as well as his famous style, which incorporates a kick that is narrower than most swimmers'. He gave Morales a quick lesson in the TODAY pool, telling her that mastering the breaststroke is just like being a frog. 

    More: Olympian Lolo Jones, 29, is staying a virgin until marriage 
    Two brothers compete for one Olympic trampoline spot 
    Video: How to keep safe at the pool this summer 
     

    TODAY.com contributor Jillian Eugenios could probably pull off pretending to be a frog, and wonders if that means she should start training for the Olympics herself.

  • Olympian Lolo Jones, 29, is staying a virgin until marriage

    Alexandra Wyman / Getty Images for ESPY

    She'd rather wait: US track athlete Lolo Jones says she'll stay a virgin until she's married.

    By Us Weekly

    Lolo Jones' journey to the Olympics hasn't been easy — but it's been easier than finding a husband!

    The 29-year-old Olympic track and field star revealed on Twitter she's a virgin and further explained why in Tuesday night's interview with HBO's Real Sports .

    PHOTOS: Celebs who love athletes

    "It's just something, a gift that I want to give to my husband," she said. "But please understand this journey has been hard. If there's virgins out there, I just want to let them know, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college, has been to stay a virgin before marriage."

    But she's had plenty of offers!

    Alexandra Wyman / Getty Images for ESPY

    She'd rather wait: US track athlete Lolo Jones says she'll stay a virgin until she's married.

    "I've been tempted. I've had guys tell me, they're like, 'Hey you know if you have sex it will help you run faster,' " Jones joked. Her response? "If you marry me, then yeah."

    PHOTOS: Biggest star sex tape scandals

    And the athlete, who is competing for gold at the London Games this summer, decided to make her virginity public because she's tired of people asking why she's single.

    "I hate talking about it but hate people saying they can't understand why I've been single so long. Explains the whole pic," she tweeted Tuesday.

    Still, Jones jokes about her virginal status. One Twitter follower wrote her, "Saw a headline that said LoLo Jones 30 year old virgin. What?" She tweeted back, "I'm 29. I have a few more months before I'm the movie sequel."

    PHOTOS: When stars lost their virginity

    Check out 5 other things you don't know about the virgin runner.

    1. She left her family to become a runner. Jones grew up with a single mother in a family of six with her father in and out of jail. "When we couldn't pay the rent, we had to move," she told the Associated Press. But she refused to move while attending Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa and instead lived with friends and their family that would take her in.

    2. She tripped in the 2009 Beijing Olympics. The runner was favorite to win the 100-meter hurdles, but ended up finishing seventh after she tripped during the race.

    3. She cried reading The Hunger Games. "Darn Hunger Games book had me choking up on the airplane," she tweeted. "Rue, district 11 and their crescent shaped bread."

    4. She uses Twitter to find dates! Jones told HBO's Real Sports that she's tried every online dating site, but Twitter works best. "I'm waiting for the day where somebody totally tricks me with their Twitter picture. Like they're using an Abercrombie model and I show up on the date with somebody from The Biggest Loser."

    5. She's posed semi-nude! The athlete disrobed for ESPN's 2009 Body Issue. "I asked the pastor at my church if he'd still let me come to church on Sunday," she joked of appearing semi-nude in the magazine.

    More: Video: Olympic swimming hopefuls show off moves 
    Two brothers compete for one Olympic trampoline spot 
    Olympic hopeful Ryan Lochte to Vogue: I'm a coach's nightmare 
    Olympic hopefuls' moms on supporting star athletes  

  • Make your own Olympic torch (at least it won't cost you $170,000)

    Toby Melville / Reuters

    Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

    An Olympic torch is auctioned on eBay.

    As Queen Elizabeth hosts the world's royals to mark her Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic relay torch arrives in England. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

    Toby Melville / Reuters

    Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

    An Olympic torch is auctioned on eBay.

    Crowds lined the streets of a small town in south west England on Monday as a locally-organized torch relay race was run ahead of the official Olympic parade.

    Several enterprising locals took to the streets of Hatherleigh wielding their own homemade versions of the much-heralded torch.

    Olympic torch lit by sun's rays at birthplace of Games

    Some 8,000 runners are participating in the official torch relay, which will cover over 8,000 miles throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the next ten weeks. 

    The historic ritual only started Saturday, but by Sunday there were already several torches being auctioned on eBay with offers in excess of $170,000

    Related content:

    As Queen Elizabeth hosts the world's royals to mark her Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic relay torch arrives in England. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

  • Two brothers compete for one Olympic trampoline spot

    TODAY

    Steven and Jeffrey show off their high-flying moves on the plaza Thursday.

    Steven Gluckstein, 21, the highest-ranking male trampoline athlete in the country, is one qualifying event away from making the U.S. Olympic team.

    There’s only one person standing in his way: His brother Jeffrey, 19, who's ranked No. 2.

    Before 2011, there was little sibling rivalry among the New Jersey jumpers. But last year, when Jeffrey took Steven's national champion title, that changed.

    “We never competed against each other. So I never looked at him as competition,” Steven told TODAY. “I looked at him as my little brother also competing at the same sport. So I was always trying to get him going, get him better, help him out, give him tips.”

    The boys have been jumping since they were kids, when the family installed a trampoline in the backyard. “They just started to jump, and got better and better,” said their father Steven.

    On the TODAY plaza Thursday, the men talked to Matt Lauer and showed off their tandem trampolining skills.

    TODAY

    Steven and Jeffrey show off their high-flying moves on the plaza Thursday.

    "If this were my kids, I’d have to move them to separate states," Lauer told older brother Steven. “How are you handling this?"

    "Well it’s very important that we keep our gym life separate from our home life,” Steven said. “When we walk through the gym doors, we’re competitors. But once we leave, we’re brothers."

    The two train together at a gym not far from their parents' house where they both live, albeit in separate rooms and on separate floors. "I make breakfast so he doesn’t sleep through training,” Steven said. "I want him to compete at his best so when I beat him it will be that much sweeter." Their qualifying meet is in California, in June. 

    Steven calls his personal training method military-grade strict. "Everything is on time, everything’s gotta be very organized and structured, whereas my brother is the younger brother, a little bit more laid back and he does what he wants to.”

    Training together for over a decade means the pair know the other’s game. “I notice his strengths more than his weaknesses," said Steven. "It makes me work that much harder."

    Steven attempted to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 but fell short of qualifying. He told TODAY, "I think I got a little bit ahead of myself and I messed up one of my last tricks on my final routine and it was done …That’s what’s making me work so hard. He’s so close so I can’t let up, not for one minute."

    Brother Jeffrey calls his brother an inspiration, even with the intense pressure of competition. “Just seeing him going from a double front to triples is really great and to follow in those footsteps is really an honor."

    Though the trampoline is in American invention, dating back to Iowa in the 1930s, the United States has not fared well at the Olympics since it was made an official sport in 2000. The U.S. has never brought home a medal, losing out in previous years to China, Russia, Germany and Canada.  

    When Lauer asked the brothers which one of them will represent America in London, Steven held Jeffrey's hands down and shot his arm in the air. “I want the best for him,” Steven said in an earlier interview. “I just want a little better for me.”

    More: Olympic hopeful Ryan Lochte to Vogue: 'I'm a coach's nightmare' 
    New ad gives Olympic (and regular) moms their due  
    Meet Missy 'The Missile' Franklin, 16  
    Kathie Lee and Hoda finally trade punches
    Video: Royal family front and center as Olympics approach 

    TODAY.com contributor Jillian Eugenios was thrilled when trampoline became an official Olympic category, validating the way she has always felt about the sport.

  • World's most expensive cable car might not be ready for Olympics

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    The transport link between two Olympic venues that might not be ready for the Games. ITN's Simon Harris reports.

    The transport link between two Olympic venues that might not be ready for the Games. ITN's Simon Harris reports.

    The world's most expensive cable car is undergoing tests in London – but authorities admit the project, which links two Olympic venues, may not open in time for this summer's Games.

    The 1,000-yard gondola lift line crosses the River Thames in east London and is planned to be both a commuter route and a tourist attraction.

    It has been enthusiastically backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, but opponents point out the scheme will use public money despite a huge $57 million sponsorship deal with Dubai-based Emirates Airlines which means the facility will be officially known as the Emirates Air Line.

    PhotoBlog: London's new Thames cable car in place - but will it be ready for the Olympics?

    It will cost up to $95 million in total, with around $20 million coming from local public funds.

    Transit authority Transport for London (TfL), which will operate the cable car, will only say the project will be open "in the summer," raising the prospect that it will not be ready in time for the London 2012 Games in July. TfL insists the route was never part of the Olympic transport plan.

    Two 300ft-high pillars will carry more than 30 gondolas across the river from the O2 – the Greenwich concert venue that will host events including the gymnastics and basketball finals – to the Docklands-based ExCel conference center which is being used for boxing, fencing, judo, taekwondo, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.

    The cost of a journey on the Emirates Air Line has not yet been set, but TfL says it will be similar to the frequent Thames River Boat service whose fares are around $8. Passengers will be able to pay with Oyster cards, the pre-payment "smart card" used by millions of Londoners.

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    Although the cost will be significantly higher than the equivalent bus or subway journey, the views from the 10-person gondolas traveling 160 feet above the ground are undoubtedly more appealing. 

    TfL says the system will move 2,000 passengers an hour -- the equivalent capacity of more than 30 buses.

    More Olympic coverage from msnbc.com and NBC News:

     

    More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

    Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world

     

  • Olympics 2012 designer uniforms: Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and more!

    Steve Finn / Splash News

    Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

    InStyle.com

    Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

    Steve Finn / Splash News

    By InStyle.com

    Designers are going for the Olympic gold! First, Ralph Lauren announced his plans to create Olympic Village and closing ceremony looks for Team USA, then Stella McCartney unveiled her athletic gear for Team Great Britain. Now, Giorgio Armani is dressing Italy’s athletes in sleek white and midnight blue sportswear. “I am very honored to participate with these great colleagues,” Armani said at the unveiling of his Olympic Village collection. “This will be the most fashionable Olympic Games ever.” We can’t wait to see which designer Team France will wear! 

    Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty

    Italy: Giorgio Armani
    Instead of working with the traditional Italian flag colors of red, white, and green, Giorgio Armani opted for white and midnight blue. Every Italian Olympic athlete will be issued a set of Armani luggage packed with around 50 pieces of the sportswear, which Armani designed under his EA7 label. While the athletes won't compete in Armani, they will wear the looks for Olympic ceremonies, and while in the Olympic Village.

    InStyle.com

    Great Britain: Stella McCartney
    Stella McCartney collaborated with Adidas on Great Britain’s Olympic uniforms, which feature a contemporary take on the British flag. “When I talked to the athletes I asked them: 'Do you feel different when you look good, do you think it enhances your performance?' and they all said 'yes,’” the designer told the BBC."You shouldn't have to sacrifice style for sport."

    Courtesy of Ralph Lauren

    USA: Ralph Lauren
    Ralph Lauren is known for his all-American style, so designing the closing ceremony and Olympic Village looks for team USA was a perfect fit! Lauren stuck to a patriotic palette of red, white, and navy, and his signature pony logo and ribbon striped belts made their way onto many of the pieces. Shop the collection at ralphlauren.com.

    More from InStyle.com:
    7 Ways to Be Healthier Now
    10 Ways to Eat Your Way Gorgeous
    Star Workouts, No Gym Required!

  • Aussie Olympic hopeful loses bet over 'mankini' at opening ceremony

    George Pimentel / WireImage via Getty Images, file

    Sacha Baron Cohen as "Borat" (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

    Cameron Spencer / Getty Images, file

    Double trap shooter Russell Mark of Australia, pictured in Beijing in 2008.

    George Pimentel / WireImage via Getty Images, file

    Sacha Baron Cohen as "Borat" (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

    Australian Olympic shooting gold medalist Russell Mark is set to parade in a lime-green "mankini" made famous by the movie character "Borat" at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics as the penalty for losing a bet.

    Mark, who won double trap gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games and silver in Sydney, pledged to wear the skimpy swimsuit worn by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in the 2006 film if Melbourne-based Carlton lost to St. Kilda in the Australian Football League.

    Carlton suffered a shock four-goal defeat in the match on Monday night and Mark owned up to making the bet on local radio.

    "Oh, I must've been intoxicated. Carlton promise so much and just deliver so little. It kills me," the burly 48-year-old said on Tuesday.

    "Anyway, a lot of people would think a mankini might look better than the uniform they've nominated for us, so I don't know if it's such a bad thing."

    Cameron Spencer / Getty Images, file

    Double trap shooter Russell Mark of Australia, pictured in Beijing in 2008.

    The one-piece swimsuit would certainly stand out among the other Australian athletes, who will be kitted out in stodgy green blazers and white slacks which fashion critics in Australia described as "retro".

    An Australian Olympic Committee spokesman recommended Mark keep the mankini in the closet.

    "Age is the problem here. Russell is no spring chicken, his days of being a model are long gone, and we don't think it would be a good look for the team to have Russell in a mankini," the spokesman told local media.

    "Besides, this will be his sixth Olympics and he is a chance to be named as flag bearer. Imagine the flag bearer out in front of our team in a mankini. And a big, butch shooter at that.

    "As we all know the London weather is fickle and we would not want him to catch cold."

    More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

    Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world

     

     

  • Michael Phelps among Olympic athletes photographed at Media Summit

    Victoria Will / AP

    Swimmer Michael Phelps poses for a portrait at the Olympic Media Summit.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Decathete Trey Hardee poses for pictures during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas.

    Victoria Will / AP

    Sprinter Wallace Spearmon poses for a portrait at the Olympic Media Summit.

    Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

    Gymnast, Jordyn Wieber, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Nick Laham / Getty Images

    Shooter, Corey Cogdell, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

    Track athlete, Lashawn Merritt, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Natalie Coughlin of the US Swimming Olympic team poses during a photo session during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Tony Gunawan of the US Badminton Olympic team poses for pictures during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Gwen Jorgensen of the US Olympic Triathlon team poses for pictures during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Victoria Will / AP

    Swimmer Michael Phelps poses for a portrait at the Olympic Media Summit.

    Olympic hopefuls and legends descended on Dallas for the 2012 London Olympics media summit last weekend to answer questions and have their photographs taken.

    Michael Phelps was a main attraction at the United States Olympic Committee event drawing a full house with reporters eager to know everything from what he plans on swimming at the London Olympics to whether he's climbed the famed "Incline," a training trail at the base of the mountains near Colorado Springs, Colo.

    The Olympic trials are June 25 to July 2 in Omaha, Neb., but until then enjoy this collection of photographs of U.S. athletes.

    --The Associated Press contributed to this blog post.

    Related links:

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Decathete Trey Hardee poses for pictures during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Natalie Coughlin of the US Swimming Olympic team poses during a photo session during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Victoria Will / AP

    Sprinter Wallace Spearmon poses for a portrait at the Olympic Media Summit.

    Nick Laham / Getty Images

    Shooter, Corey Cogdell, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Gwen Jorgensen of the US Olympic Triathlon team poses for pictures during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

    Tony Gunawan of the US Badminton Olympic team poses for pictures during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

    Gymnast, Jordyn Wieber, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

    Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

    Track athlete, Lashawn Merritt, poses for a portrait during the 2012 Team USA Media Summit.

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  • Olympic hopeful Ryan Lochte to Vogue: 'I'm a coach's nightmare'

    Annie Leibovitz/Vogue.com

    The June issue of Vogue hits newsstands May 22.

    Annie Leibovitz/Vogue.com

    Swimmer Ryan Lochte splashes around with model Karlie Kloss.

    Annie Leibovitz/Vogue.com

    Track and field hopeful Ashton Eaton leaps over model Karlie Kloss, wearing Oscar de la Renta, in Vogue's June issue.

    Annie Leibovitz/Vogue.com

    Swimmer Ryan Lochte splashes around with model Karlie Kloss.

    Annie Leibovitz/Vogue.com

    The June issue of Vogue hits newsstands May 22.

    With the London Olympics less than 75 days away, Vogue celebrated by including some of America’s top athletes in the pages of their June issue. 

    Swimmer Ryan Lochte has already brought home 6 Olympic medals (3 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze), and is hoping to aim for even more in London. Don't worry, everyone — his dangerous extracurriculars won't get in the way: “I’m always bruising and scraping things playing basketball and skateboarding,” he told Vogue writer Robert Sullivan. “I’m pretty much a coach’s nightmare.”

    Nicknamed “The Lochtenator,” he’s also a fashion industry darling and, according to Vogue, has collected sponsors that range from Speedo to Ralph Lauren “partly because of the number of events in which he is favored, partly because of a penchant for pairing swimsuits with gold bling.” 

    Annie Leibovitz/Vogue.com

    Track and field hopeful Ashton Eaton leaps over model Karlie Kloss, wearing Oscar de la Renta, in Vogue's June issue.

    Olympic hopeful Ashton Eaton, 24, has his eyes set on competing in the decathlon in London. It’s looking good, as the track and field star scored a record-breaking long jump of 8.16 meters at the World Indoor Championships held in Turkey earlier this year.

    He’s not alone: His fiancée Brianne Theisen, 24, of Canada, is also an Olympic hopeful. A track and field star in her home country, Theisen holds the Canadian record for the indoor pentathlon with 4,555 points. Eaton admitted to Vogue that Theisen is better at the high jump and she recently gave him some pointers. “It was pretty technical,” he said. “I don’t have a very good approach, and she has a really good approach.”

    Read Vogue's story here, and pick up the magazine on newsstands May 22. 

    More: Olympic hopefuls' moms on supporting star athletes 
    New ad gives Olympic (and regular) moms their due 
    85 days out, London tests and tweaks 
    Meet Missy 'The Missile' Franklin, 16 
    Video: Olympic flame lighted in Greece 

  • Now towering over London's Olympic Park: 'The Godzilla of public art'

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    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    Tim Hales / AP

    Designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture is made up of 63 percent recycled steel and incorporates the five Olympic rings.

    The ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture towers over the 2012 Olympic Park. The brainchild of London's Mayor Boris Johnson, the Orbit is the subject of much debate.

    The British royal family is keeping busy ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

    Tim Hales / AP

    Designed by Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond, the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture is made up of 63 percent recycled steel and incorporates the five Olympic rings.

    LONDON -- Red, twisted and 72 feet higher than the Statue of Liberty, the ArcelorMittal Orbit now looms over the Olympic Park as the tallest sculpture in Great Britain.

    Designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor and architect Cecil Balmond, tabloid newspapers have branded it "the Eye-ful Tower," "the Godzilla of public art" and worse. Others say it looks like a roller coaster gone badly awry.

    Even London's normally garrulous Mayor Boris Johnson struggles to describe the $36-million structure. "It is very absorbing to look at," he says. "It has got that weird enigmatic tubey Fallopian quality about it if I'm being totally blunt."

    'A 45-second conversation'
    The idea for what has been called a "deconstructed Eiffel Tower" was formulated in 2009, when Johnson and steel magnate Laksmi Mittal discussed creating something dramatic for the Olympics while attending the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.  

    The ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture towers over the 2012 Olympic Park. The brainchild of London's Mayor Boris Johnson, the Orbit is the subject of much debate.

     

    "This was conceived in a 45-second conversation in a cloakroom!" Johnson recalled on Friday, as officials announced the 2,000-ton tower had been completed.

    Mittal contributed $31 million to the project, with the rest of the cost being covered by public funds. However, the sculpture has proved controversial at a time when the U.K. is grappling with massive spending cuts.

    The British royal family is keeping busy ahead of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

    Kapoor says he expected to evoke a mixture of responses to his latest work. "When you make a new addition of this scale to the London skyline, its bound to be controversial, and there are those who love it and those who don’t and we'll see what time does," he said.

    Bad neighbors for Team USA? Occupy protesters face eviction

    Kapoor noted that Paris's iconic Eiffel Tower was considered "the most tremendously ugly object" by many when it was first built. 

    Belmond, who described the looping structure as "a curve in space," said he thought people would be won over by it.

    Visitors will be able to pay $24 to go up the 35-story structure in an elevator when it opens during the Olympic Games in July.

    Olympic housing crunch: London landlords evict tenants to gouge tourists

    On a clear day, views from its observation deck extend for 20 miles across London and the green hills beyond.

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    The tower will be at the heart of a new 560-acre park, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, that will include a lush river valley, biking trails and a tree-lined promenade. 

    Brits revel in gloom ahead of Games, but don't believe the gripe

    After the Games, Johnson says he expects millions will visit the Orbit, and that it will be become a landmark. 

    He believes other Londoners will come to love it, too.

    "I think so," he said, then paused. "In the end."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

    More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

    Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world

  • Bad neighbors for Team USA? Occupy protesters face eviction from park near training base

    Alastair Jamieson / msnbc.com

    Jim L., left, and other members of the Occupy Mile End protest group at their camp in east London on Thursday.

    Oda / Getty Images

    From Wimbledon to Wembley Stadium to The Dome, a look at the venues for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    Alastair Jamieson / msnbc.com

    Jim L., left, and other members of the Occupy Mile End protest group at their camp in east London on Thursday.

    LONDON -- An eviction notice has been served on dozens of Occupy protesters who have set up camp in a park next to Team USA's Olympic track and field training base.

    About 50 demonstrators are occupying Mile End Park – two miles from the main London 2012 site and next door to a sports stadium where American athletes will prepare for events in July.

    The park is also visible from the priority traffic lanes that will be used to whisk VIPs and other participants from central London to the Olympic Village, which is located to the east of the U.K. capital.

    The protesters say they are part of the anti-capitalist Occupy movement, which has seen sit-ins and clashes with police in cities including New York, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Oakland.

    An Occupy London camp was forcibly removed from the grounds of St Paul's Cathedral by police at the end of February, resulting in 20 arrests.

    Local authorities have now secured a court order to close down Occupy Mile End, which began five weeks ago and includes about a dozen tents, a campfire and makeshift toilet facilities.

    Police evict Occupy London protesters from camp

    Tower Hamlets Borough Council applied for the order following complaints from local residents. The manager of a nearby nature reserve also accused camp members of damaging important trees by taking branches for firewood, according to a report in the East London Advertiser newspaper.

    One of the protesters, who gave his name as Jim L., told msnbc.com the group had agreed to leave the site voluntarily on Sunday.

    "This is one of Britain's poorest boroughs and we don't want to take council resources away from things like schools and hospitals so we have agreed to vacate the site without costing the council a penny," he said.

    Mark Taylor, spokesman for the Mile End Residents' Association, said locals were "looking forward" to a "constructive and companionable relationship with Team USA."

    He said: "We are very pleased that the council has secured a possession order to reclaim the park for its intended purpose. It's very sad that trees had to be pulled down for firewood and children's activities disrupted before the council acted."

    /

    A diverse community in East London will welcome the world to Britain for the 2012 Olympic Games. Meet residents and hear how they feel about having a huge, world stage in their backyard.

    Council officials insisted that nobody from the United States Olympic Committee, Team USA or the London 2012 organizers had expressed concern about the Occupy protest on their doorstep.

    A spokesman for the council told msnbc.com: "The USA track and field team will be training at Mile End Stadium during the Olympic Games. They have funded extensive improvements to the stadium, and will be providing a variety of community benefits including free coaching sessions and opportunities to watch the team training.

    Olympic housing crunch: London landlords evict tenants to gouge tourists

    "We are working with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on security issues, understandably these issues are sensitive and therefore we are not able to comment in detail, but we do not anticipate that these will impact on the local community."

    The council said it would go to the High Court to have the protesters moved if they did not leave the site, which is owned by a private trust on behalf of the council for use as a public park.

    Brits revel in gloom ahead of London Olympics, but don't believe the gripe

    Jim L. said the Occupy camp would move to a new, unidentified, site on Sunday. He added that there was little chance of protests targeting the Olympic Games.

    "It would be impossible because of the security, in my own view," he said. "We're not against the Olympics as everybody likes a bit of sport, but I believe it is just one big advertising event for the benefit of corporate sponsors."

    At London Olympics, dogs have sniffed out a key anti-terror role

    He said the camp location had been chosen to highlight the issue of poverty in Tower Hamlets and not because of the proximity to Team USA's stadium.

    Oda / Getty Images

    From Wimbledon to Wembley Stadium to The Dome, a look at the venues for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

    "There are huge problems here -- lack of affordable housing, unemployment and poverty," he said. "This is not so much a protest as a process, which is why we've come here – to listen to people and gather support. There isn’t much point in trying to occupy private land in order to disrupt the institutions of capitalism.”

    American competitors at the Games will have several bases across London for different sports. Other sites include the University of East London campuses in Docklands and Stratford.

    Langdon School, in the nearby Poplar area, will be home to the Canadian Olympic team.

    More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

    Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world

     

  • Olympic torch lit by sun's rays at birthplace of Games

    Orestis Panagiotou / EPA

    Actress Ino Menegaki, in the role of the High Priestess, lights the torch of the Olympic Flame in front of Hera Temple in Ancient Olympia, Greece, on May 10, 2012.

    Orestis Panagiotou / EPA

    The flame will make a 1,800-mile journey through Greece using 490 torchbearers.

    John Kolesidis / Reuters

    Ino Menegaki holds up the cauldron with the Olympic flame during the torch lighting ceremony.

    John Kolesidis / Reuters

    Alexander Loukos, center, a British boxer of Greek descent, runs with the Olympic flame during the torch relay at the site of ancient Olympia on May 10, 2012. The torch will be handed to London organizers on May 17 in Athens' Panathiaic Stadium, where the first modern games were held in 1896.

    Oda / Getty Images

    From Wimbledon to Wembley Stadium to The Dome, a look at the venues for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

    An actress playing high priestess kindles the torch of the 2012 Games, sparking the global relay to the Opening Ceremony cauldron in London on July 27.

    Orestis Panagiotou / EPA

    Actress Ino Menegaki, in the role of the High Priestess, lights the torch of the Olympic Flame in front of Hera Temple in Ancient Olympia, Greece, on May 10, 2012.

    The Associated Press reports — The flame that will burn during the London Games was lit at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics on Thursday, heralding the start of a torch relay that will culminate with the opening ceremony on July 27.

    Actress Ino Menegaki, dressed as a high priestess, stood before the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera, and after an invocation to Apollo, the ancient Greeks' Sun God, used a mirror to focus the sun's rays and light a torch.

    The triangular torch is designed to highlight the fact that London is hosting the Olympics for the third time. It also staged the games in 1908 and 1948.

    Under bright sunny skies there was no need for the backup flame that was used during the final rehearsal for the Olympic torch lighting a day earlier. Read the full story.

    Related content:

    Orestis Panagiotou / EPA

    The flame will make a 1,800-mile journey through Greece using 490 torchbearers.

    John Kolesidis / Reuters

    Ino Menegaki holds up the cauldron with the Olympic flame during the torch lighting ceremony.

    John Kolesidis / Reuters

    Alexander Loukos, center, a British boxer of Greek descent, runs with the Olympic flame during the torch relay at the site of ancient Olympia on May 10, 2012. The torch will be handed to London organizers on May 17 in Athens' Panathiaic Stadium, where the first modern games were held in 1896.

    An actress playing high priestess kindles the torch of the 2012 Games, sparking the global relay to the Opening Ceremony cauldron in London on July 27.

    Oda / Getty Images

    From Wimbledon to Wembley Stadium to The Dome, a look at the venues for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

     

  • Neville Bardos cheats death and jockeys for a position on U.S. Olympic team

    May 30, 2011

    Rock Center

    Boyd Martin, Neville Bardos, and Harry Smith

    By Jenny Dubin and Ronnie Polidoro
    Rock Center

    Neville Bardos, the U.S. Equestrian Federation International Horse of the Year, is gearing up for a potential spot on the U.S. Olympic team, a remarkable feat considering less than a year ago the champion horse was fighting for his life after surviving a deadly fire.

    “Neville was the highest-placed American horse at the World Championships two years ago,” said Boyd Martin, the horse’s trainer.  But after a fire broke out in Neville’s stable, the 12-year-old chestnut thoroughbred horse with a white muzzle was unrecognizable when he turned black from the smoke and ash.  “The only thing you could see was Neville's two little eyes,” Martin said.

    May 30, 2011

    The fire happened at night last Memorial Day in a barn which housed 11 horses.  “I remember driving out there and there was just this massive yellow glow in the sky," Martin told Rock Center’s Harry Smith in an interview airing Wednesday, May 9.

    “I thought to myself, ‘you know, this is real bad and my life's about to change,’” said Martin, who purchased Neville after he graduated from high school in Australia.

    Neville was destined for the slaughterhouse but Martin sensed he was a champion-caliber horse.  The two placed 1st at the Melbourne CCI in 2006, 1st at the Fairhill CCI in 2009, and placed 4th at Kentucky CCI in 2010.

    But disaster loomed at the True Prospect Farm in West Grove, PA.  Martin fought his way past the firefighters and raced into the barn.  Through a cloud of heavy smoke, Martin says he found a stable door and remembered hearing a gurgling noise.

    Rock Center

    Boyd Martin, Neville Bardos, and Harry Smith

    “I had my shirt over my head and I remembered running in there and then I could feel, like, a horse cowering up in the corner,” Martin said.

    Martin says he put his hands on the horse and felt his collar and dragged him out of the barn just moments before the blazing roof collapsed.

    It helped that Neville was wearing a windsucking collar.  It’s a collar that is placed around a horse’s neck to deter him from flexing his neck muscles whenever he tries to suck in air, a habit discouraged in competitive horses.

    Before Martin arrived, four horses were pulled from the barn but Neville was the only one Martin himself was able to pull out alive.  While the burns to his flesh were minimal, he had been in the fire for the better part of an hour and suffered severe smoke inhalation.  Neville was in critical condition gasping for his life.

    Neville was rushed to the hospital and treated daily in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber in effort to speed his recovery.  His condition improved so rapidly the results seemed miraculous. “You could see the horse every day getting fresher and stronger and more antsy,” said Martin.

    After five weeks of recovery, Neville’s veterinarian suggested Martin take him for a walk.  So Martin hopped on and walked him, but the walk turned into a trot and then the trot turned into a canter.

    It had always been a dream of Martin’s to compete in England at the Burghley Horse Trials, one of the toughest three-day equestrian competitions in the world, but by the time Neville was on the mend, Martin only had eight weeks to get the horse ready.

    Martin says a lot of people said it was a dumb idea to compete with the recovering horse, “But what people didn't understand is how much I knew this horse and what I was feeling every day and what I was reading as the trainer. And I knew before I got to Burghley that this horse was ready to go.”

    Martin and Neville finished 7th, an extraordinary performance just three months after the fire.

    “It confirmed that me as a person and Neville as a horse can deal with anything now,” Martin said.

    The two mates have now set their sights on what would be the ride of their lives competing at the Olympics this summer.  Their fate will be determined when the short list is announced June 17th and the Olympic team is announced July 2nd.

    “All I can do is try my very hardest.  And all Neville can do is try his very hardest.  And if it's meant to be I think it's going to happen,” Martin said.

    Click here to watch Harry Smith's full report, 'Horse Power,' from NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams. 

     

     

  • Olympic hopefuls' moms on supporting star athletes: 'I love my job'

    It may be the "hardest job in the world," according to a heartwarming new ad, but it's also the best, if you ask the moms of some Olympic hopefuls.

    With 80 days to London 2012, top athletes aiming for the games visited TODAY Tuesday with their biggest cheerleaders — their moms — to talk about the trials, triumphs and tears of competing at the top of their sports.  

    Rita Wieber, whose daughter, 16-year old Jordyn, is the 2011 world champion in all-around gymnastics, said that 99% of this journey is a labor of love. 

    “There will always be ups and downs that the moms go through but it’s been great," she told Matt Lauer. "I’m very proud of her."

    Rita feels like it’s her job to do the encouraging, not the pressuring. “I just be sure she’s fed and sleeping and give her all the support she needs and the coaches can do the pushing,” she said. 

    “My mom has been there through everything, and she’s been there through thick and thin, and she’s supported me my whole entire life and I love her,” said swimming champ Ryan Lochte, who's aiming to make his third Olympic team, of his mom, Ike. 

    By the time Ryan was finished speaking, Ike was overwhelmed with emotion. “And you’re crying already,” Lauer said. “Imagine what’s going to happen in London. How are you going to survive, Ike?”

    “I hide!” she said. “No one ever sees me.” Ike said she’s the type of person who shows her emotions all the time, so she makes herself scarce when her son swims. “I want to do that and I don’t want to be in front of all these people. I just want to cry by myself.”

    Story: New ad gives Olympic (and regular) moms their due

    That devotion and emotion is reflected in a new ad from Procter & Gamble called "Best Job" that celebrates Olympians' moms and their sacrifices. It's gone viral online, with nearly 3 million YouTube views.

    Every time Ike Lochte watches it, she cries. “I just take it for granted, that’s my job and I love my job,” she told TODAY.com. (And yes, she cried just talking about the ad.) “I think every mother, every parent can put themselves in that perspective. I was talking the other night with a man whose son is in Little League, and it’s the same. You don’t have to be an Olympian to feel it.”

    “We (moms) have gone through everything with them, all their sacrifices,” Ike said, adding that Ryan, while competitive, is also really easy-going. “I think he takes losing a lot easier than I do.”

    Looking around the green room before appearing on TODAY, she dabbed her eyes, smiled proudly as her son gave interviews, and said, “This is just so cool.”

    Teri Johnson, mother to gymnast Shawn Johnson, told TODAY.com the ad strikes a chord familiar to all moms, whether your child competes in the Olympics or the county championships. “It doesn’t matter," she said, "It’s your child. We all have the same feeling.”

    The best part of being an Olympic mom, said Teri, is getting to spend lots of time with her daughter. “Just to be with Shawn is great," she said. "She’s always here, there and everywhere, or at practice — I will take any opportunity to spend time with her.”

    Jodie Allen of Procter & Gamble joined the families on the plaza with a special announcement. Nearly 800 moms of Olympians and Paralympians will be gifted $1000 "to get to London," Allen said, and are invited to visit a family house in London, where in addition to meals and other support services, hair stylists and makeup artists will be waiting to pamper moms.

    Click here to salute your own mom with P&G's "Thank you, mom" app or visit the official "Thank You, Mom" site

    As Ike Lochte dabbed her eyes, Lauer suggested the family home could be stocked with mascara.

    “We’ll make you up every time, Ike,” said Allen. 

    (Full disclosure: Procter & Gamble is a sponsor of TODAY in London. Our tears at this commercial, though? Totally unsponsored.)

    Do you know a great mom? Tell her you appreciate her with a cute e-card.

    Check out Mother's Day gift guides, videos, recipes and more in our special section.

    More: One million Olympic tickets go on sale Friday 
    There's room at the inn for Olympics...but it'll cost
    85 days out, London tests and tweaks
    Meet 'The Missile': Missy Franklin, 16
    Moms rule! What makes you a great mom?
    These moms don't sweat the small stuff 
    Do you have a family bucket list? 

  • New ad gives Olympic (and regular) moms their due

    Join P&G in saying "Thank you, Mom" by sending your Mom a message of thanks at: http://www.facebook.com/thankyoumom

    When you think of Olympic heroes, you think of those gold-medal winning performances. That record-setting swim race. The lightning-fast relay. The nerve-wracking penalty kicks that resulted in goooooaalll, and victory.

    But a new ad from Procter & Gamble puts the spotlight on an entirely different  hero: The Olympic mom. The ones who got up earlier than everyone else to feed and drive their little athletes to pre-dawn practices for all those years. The ones who logged millions of miles chauffeuring to games and competitions; the ones who sat on the sidelines and in bleachers and cheered louder than anyone else.

    For its “Best Job” commercial, the company created a two-minute tear-jerker filled with poignant scenes of moms from around the world playing their supporting roles in building world-class athletes, from the breakfast-making to the commuting, to the loads and loads of laundry. 

    There are scenes of heartache — the mom bandaging a child’s hurt foot, or the mom upset when her gymnast falls off a balance beam, as well as scenes of elation — the mom crying with pride as her child salutes her after winning a race.

    But mostly, the scenes show the unwavering maternal devotion that every mom can relate to.   

    Because while only a tiny percentage of  moms have kids who make it all the way to the Olympics, there are hundreds and thousands who do the same thing each day, with an end result that takes place on a much smaller stage — a little league game, or a local swim meet, or maybe a high school state championship. Even that’s rare.

    Click here to salute your own mom with P&G's "Thank you, mom" app

    The “Best Job” ad resonated with my own life. As a competitive youth tennis player for many years, my mom sacrificed  numerous hours each week driving me and my older brother to practices and lessons, hitting balls with us, and giving guidance and advice (both solicited and unsolicited!). She spent weekends taking us to tournaments, where she'd sit in her lawn chair and read books as we waited for hours between matches. She’d make sure our water jugs were always filled and gave us pep talks before tough opponents, hugs after tough losses.

    Life has come full circle because now I’m the one driving the carpool, making pre-game meals, washing uniforms, giving moral support, and rooting for my two kids in their athletic endeavors.

    P&G’s ad has the tagline: "The hardest job is the best job in the world. Thank you, Mom."

    Having been on both sides, I couldn’t agree more.

    (Full disclosure: Procter & Gamble is a sponsor of TODAY in London. Our tears at this commercial, though? Totally unsponsored.)

    Join P&G in saying "Thank you, Mom" by sending your Mom a message of thanks at: http://www.facebook.com/thankyoumom

    Do you know a great mom? Tell her you appreciate her with a cute e-card.

    Check out Mother's Day gift guides, videos, recipes and more in our special section.

    More: Olympic hopeful moms on supporting star athletes: 'I love my job'
    These moms don't sweat the small stuff
    Facebook discipline: Creative parenting or just mean?
    Do you have a family bucket list?
    Dads aren't dummies in the diaper wars

  • Report: Fake bomb exposes London Olympic security

    Paul Hackett / Reuters

    Spectators find their seats at the official opening of the London Olympics stadium, inside the Olympic park, London, Saturday.

    Paul Hackett / Reuters

    Spectators find their seats at the official opening of the London Olympics stadium, inside the Olympic park, London, Saturday.

    Britain has begun an inquiry into security at the London Olympics after a worker reportedly smuggled a fake bomb onto the site to expose flaws in its anti-terror defenses.

    The worker carried the artificial bomb through two checkpoints without being searched by security staff, according to a British tabloid newspaper report.

    Once inside, he was able to drive the package through the site, taking it past the velodrome before posing for a photograph with it outside the Olympic Stadium, The Sun reported.

    The stunt, 24 hours before 40,000 people attended the official opening of the stadium on Saturday, was designed to show how vulnerable the site, which also includes the athletes' village, could be to a terrorist attack.

    Fears that the international spectacle could be targeted by extremists have led organisers to spend $1.6 billion (£1 billion) on security for the games including 23,700 guards, 14,000 troops at key times and an 11-mile electric fence.

    A spokesman for Britain’s Home Office told The Telegraph it had asked games organizers to "look into this incident and report back to the Home Secretary urgently".

    More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

    Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world

     

  • 85 days to Olympics, London tests and tweaks

    With 85 days to go until the London Olympics begin, the city is undergoing a dress rehearsal in a frenzy of activity.

    Finishing touches are going on Olympic facilities, including the 80,000-seat stadium that will host the opening and closing ceremonies. Security measures ranging from fighter jets to river maneuvers to canine units are all undergoing testing. Residents of an apartment building even received a pamphlet informing them that the top of their building will likely be housing surface-to-air missiles.

    “I don’t think anyone wants to live in a militarized apartment building,’’ resident Brian Whelan told NBC News.

    “I think all of you would expect us to have a plan in place that works,’’ General Nick Parker of the British Ministry of Defense responded. “So if it were to happen, we could deal with it.’’

    The sporting venues are being tested, too — by athletes undergoing their own trials. A water polo pool that was under construction only a week ago hosted a tune-up game between Britain and Hungary. On the sparkling new field hockey pitch, Argentina took it to China in another warm-up for when the games count.

    “It’s always interesting when you’re talking, and, ‘Oh, did you find anything wrong at the test event?’’’ Paul Deighton of the London Olympic organizing committee told NBC’s Michelle Kosinski. “Of course we did!’’

    In some events, competitors learned the hard way that their venue might need an additional tweak or two.

    “At the BMX track, the jump for some of the women was a bit too big when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, so we had slightly too many crashes, for example,’’ Deighton said.

    With the pomp and circumstance of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee coming up next month and the Olympics to follow, the organizers are focused on ensuring that the reported $17 billion cost of the Games benefits London in the future through reuse of the venues and tourism marketing. Deighton said the British are not concerned with outdoing the spectacle put on by Beijing in 2008.

    “Every city brings something completely different,’’ he said. 

    More: Video: Sneak peek at newly restored Kensington Palace 
    Video: Exploring the treasures of Cornwall, England
    Natalie 'leaps' into Olympic village
    Kathie Lee and Hoda finally trade punches 
    'Her Majesty:' An intimate portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
    Slideshow: Life of a queen