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Canadian gymnasts’ ebullience overshadows scores of empty seats at North Greenwich arena

Canada's Elsabeth Black performs on the balance beam during the women's gymnastics qualification at the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29, 2012.


As our reporter postcards from the Games continues, I thought I would provide some random notes from the gymnastics venue at North Greenwich arena, where I have spent much of my time so far here in London.

I have been stunned by the number of open seats at many of the events I have covered. I couldn't believe there was a single open seat at the artistic gymnastics qualifiers for men or women, let alone big pockets of seats. And suddenly, I have noticed large groups of soldiers sitting in the seats, which seems to jive with reports that they have been assigned to go fill them.

There is an upbeat bit of music that plays each time the teams of gymnasts march from one apparatus to another, lead by a host who carries a little sign for their country, and the crowd claps along. It's quite an adorable custom – a lovely piece of gymnastics. When the week started, I found myself sort of tapping my foot and enjoying it while I typed away up in the press tribune. But as the week has gone on, that music has become engrained so deeply into my brain that I hear it while I'm sleeping.

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Getting to chat with Canada's five teenaged artistic gymnasts has been one of the highlights of my week so far. I'm not sure there is a group of athletes who are more excited and appreciative to be in London than these girls. You feel as though you are speaking with the teen from up the street who babysits your kids. They are soaking up every single moment of these Games, and so deliriously proud of themselves for earning a surprise entry to the team final.

I noticed one of them had tears in her eyes after the qualifier tonight, despite the fact that it appeared they were moving on to the team final. I asked her why she was teary-eyed, and she said it was because another day of her Olympics experience was over, and it's flying by so fast, she wishes she could just stop time.

A couple of days ago, when I visited the girls at their podium training, Dominique Pegg joked with me that she wished Justin Beiber would show up at the Games. Fast-forward to Sunday, and after a terrific result for the team, Pegg got a Tweet of congratulations from the Canadian pop star.

I've seen legendary gymnastics Bella Karolyi around the broadcast media area, the man who coached Nadia Comaneci and also the great U.S. Olympic team of the 90s that won team gold. I stopped him for a moment in the interview area just to ask him what he thinks of the Canadian gymnasts.

He said he thinks Canada has a very solid team, and he wonders how good they might have been in London had they had Peng-Peng Lee, long considered Canada's strongest gymnast, however she injured her knee at the recent Canadian championships. How good could this group be with Lee in the mix?

He also said, completely unprompted, that he would love to see Canada and the U.S. spend some training time together. I asked if he had ever looked into that, and he said no, but he thought the two federaions should explore it.

I have no idea how realistic that is, or how interested anyone would be in it. But it got me wondering if that would ever happen, and if so, what the result would be?

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