* Phelps qualifies last for medley final
* South Korean freestyle champion disqualified
* China takes first gold of Games in women's shooting
By Mark Trevelyan
LONDON, July 28 China fired out a signal of
their Olympic intent with the first gold medal of the London
2012 Games on Saturday in the shooting, while the host city
warmed up to a Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte showdown in the pool.
The U.S. team mates square off on the opening night at the
aquatic centre, which staged early drama when Phelps only
narrowly scraped through his heat, and 2008 Olympic champion
Park Tae-hwan was disqualified in the 400 freestyle.
The 22-year-old, who won gold over that distance four years
ago, came first but was ruled to have left the blocks a fraction
too early. The South Korean team protested and lodged an appeal,
and the sports governing body is deliberating.
China's Yi Siling became the first gold medallist of the
Games when she won the 10 metre air rifle shooting - despite
confessing to reporters: "For the first round and the last round
I was very nervous and didn't know what I was doing."
Competition in badminton, archery, table tennis and judo
also started early on a bright sunny morning in London.
After Friday night's opening ceremony, where Britain laid on
a dizzying and sometimes eccentric extravaganza for the world,
the host nation were in strong contention to win their first
gold medal of the Games in the men's cycling road race.
A powerful team including Tour de France winner Bradley
Wiggins was poised to set up world champion Mark Cavendish for a
sprint finish down The Mall, the broad avenue leading to
In rowing, the British pair of Helen Glover and Heather
Stanning set a Games record in their heat, to confirm their
status as favourites to win their country's first Olympic gold
medal for a women's crew.
A celebration of the country's grandeur and quirky humour
that lurched from the Industrial Revolution to the Beatles, the
opening ceremony extended into the early hours and wowed the
crowd of 60,000 in the stadium and a probable billion television
viewers around the globe.
"A gigantic spectacle. What a show!" raved Germany tabloid
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques
Rogge told the audience: "In a sense the Olympic Games are
coming home tonight. This great, sports-loving country is widely
recognised as the birthplace of modern sport."
On a darker note, Albanian weightlifter Hysen
Pulaku became the first athlete to be ejected from the Games
after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.
"Of course it is always a sad day when a cheating athlete is
caught," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. "I hope there will not
Ireland's Olympic Council said it was investigating an
allegation that one of its competitors at the Games had
previously bet on an opponent to win an event in which they were
both competing. It did not name the athlete or the sport.
More than 10,000 athletes from 204 countries will compete in
26 sports over 17 days of competition in the only city to have
staged the modern Summer Games three times.
The biggest event of the first day is in the pool, where
Phelps defends his 400 metres individual medley title against
Lochte, the reigning world champion and favourite, in what is
being billed as one of the great rivalries of the Games.
Phelps has 16 Olympic medals, 14 of them gold, and is
bidding to become the most prolific medallist of all time by
overhauling the record of 18 held by Soviet gymnast Larisa
If he wins on Saturday, he will become the first man to
capture three consecutive Olympic swimming titles in the same
But he was just millimetres away from making a shock early
exit on the opening morning. A desperate lunge with his final
stroke was enough to edge out Hungary's Laszlo Cseh by 0.07
seconds and give Phelps the eighth and last spot in the
"I didn't expect those guys to go that fast in the heats,"
"I think the only thing that matters is getting a spot. You
can't get the gold medal from the morning."
Lochte, who has exuded confidence this week, was third
fastest overall, after Japan's Kosuke Hagino set the quickest
"It didn't feel so good, but that was my first race, and my
first race is always the worst one," he said.