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Even in second, Yevgeny Plushenko steals team event show

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SOCHI, Russia – If Russia wanted an Olympic moment when it selected a 31-year-old Yevgeny Plushenko for the Sochi Games after he had barely skated the past two years, that’s exactly what it got Thursday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Skating to “Tango de Roxanne,” a slow but savvy Plushenko landed a quadruple toe-triple toe combination to start and then hit a triple Axel as well as a triple Lutz all before letting out a guttural cry at the crowd, which roared its approval.

“It was incredible, right?” Plushenko told NBCOlympics.com after his skate. “It was great to skate in front of a home audience. I am so happy to skate today. It was a good program.”

It was a night that was about Plushenko, who until weeks ago wasn’t assured to compete at these Olympics because of just one allotted spots in men’s singles. The three-time Olympic medalist – including gold in 2006 – was second at the Russian National Championships in December to a teenager named Maksim Kovtun, but ultimately he was chosen for the team.

WATCH: Plushenko performs his short program

With the Winter Olympics on home ice for the first time ever, Plushenko played into the crowd in only a way that Yevgeny can. The showman, known for his self-indulgence, played to the crowd as he skated in a short program that didn’t have any errors, but lacked visible speed.

It was an exceptional moment in Olympic history: the statesman Plushenko skating in a newly-created team event, making its Olympic debut, while one of the biggest celebrities in the country was performing in what is undoubtedly his swan song, having seemingly quit the sport after both the 2006 and 2010 Games.

MORE: Mixed first day for Team USA in team event

In the press mixed zone after his 91.39 score – which ultimately left him in second behind Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s 97.98 – Plushenko was in high demand, stopping for just a single question with each reporter.

“In two days we have the free program,” Plushenko said, sweat dripping off his brow. “We will talk later.”

But the country is talking about him now. The crowd roared even when Plushenko landed a jump in his warm-up; the king of skating lived another day at the Sochi Games.

Blake Griffin will miss Olympics, report says

Blake Griffin
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For the second straight Olympics, Blake Griffin will not be able to join Team USA due to injury, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Clippers power forward will be out several months due to his left quad injury, according to the newspaper.

Griffin was originally chosen for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team but withdrew due to a torn meniscus, opening a spot for Anthony Davis.

Davis is also expected to miss the Rio Games due to injury.

Other power forwards on the U.S. finalist list released in January are LaMarcus Aldridge, Kenneth Faried, Draymond Green and Kevin Love.

Love is the only name from that list of healthy players with Olympic experience. Faried is the only player from that list who suited up at the 2014 World Cup, starting all nine games.

At London 2012, the U.S. started NBA small forwards LeBron James and Kevin Durant at the forward spots in all eight games, with another small forward, Carmelo Anthony, bringing similar versatility off the bench.

MORE: Why Candace Parker was left off Olympic team

Rio Olympic cauldron likely to be located near Plaza Maua

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Mayor Eduardo Paes says he wants the Olympic cauldron to burn in Rio de Janeiro’s revitalized port area.

The cauldron will be lit at Maracana Stadium during the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5, and will spend the night there before traveling to a permanent home.

Mario Andrada, spokesman for the Rio organizing committee, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the cauldron will be placed in the port area, but not in the heart of the renovated port area known as Plaza Maua.

“It will be close to Plaza Maua, but not exactly in Plaza Maua,” Andrada said. He said it was likely to be located near the Candelaria Church, which is near the plaza.

“Don’t get me into a fight with the mayor,” Andrada added.

Paes said he hoped the new plaza would be a center for outdoor entertainment during the Games, including performance stages, musical attractions, and large-screen televisions.

“It seems that the Maracana Stadium has limitations,” Paes said, adding that moving out of the Maracana “is good because it democratizes the access to the cauldron.”

The new plaza and downtown Rio are far from the heart of the Games in suburban Barra da Tijuca. It is also an area not usually visited by tourists.

The Olympic flame arrives from Greece and Switzerland on Tuesday in the capital Brasilia, to be carried off the plane by IOC member Carlos Nuzman, the head of the Rio organizing committee.

The flame then goes to the Planalto presidential palace where it is expected to be greeted by President Dilma Rousseff.

Andrada said IOC President Thomas Bach and other top IOC officials would not be at the ceremony.

Rousseff is facing impeachment charges and could be suspended from office as early as May 11, turning over authority to Vice President Michel Temer.

Temer, himself, could also face impeachment proceedings and has a scandal-tainted career.

PHOTOS: Olympic flame visits Acropolis, 1896 Olympic Stadium