* France steal relay gold leaving Phelps with silver
* Swimming records for Vollmer, Van der Burgh
* China tops medals table with six golds
* Host nation wins first medal after disappointment
LONDON, July 29 (Reuters) - Swimmer Michael Phelps won his
17th Olympic medal to take him closer to the all-time mark, but
his U.S. freestyle relay team were upstaged by France as records
fell in the pool on Sunday's second day of competition at the
South Africa's Cameron Van der Burgh and American Dana
Vollmer set world records in the men's 100 metres breaststroke
and women's 100 butterfly, Van der Burgh denying Japan's Kosuke
Kitajima in his bid to be the first male swimmer to win gold in
the same event at three successive Olympics.
Cyclist Lizzie Armitstead won Britain's first medal of the
London Games, a silver behind the Dutch favourite Marianne Vos
in a nailbiting, rain-drenched women's road race.
The latest U.S. basketball Dream Team played to the gallery
as they cruised through their opening match against France, but
there was an upset for another American gold medal favourite,
gymnastics world all-around champion Jordyn Wieber, who failed
to qualify for the individual Olympic final.
Overall, China took a commanding early lead in the rankings
with 12 medals, six of them gold, ahead of the United States on
11 medals, including three golds.
Meanwhile organisers sought to quell growing frustration
with empty seats among the tens of thousands of Britons who
finished up ticketless in the pre-Games booking system.
Phelps won his first ever silver after swimming a storming
second leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay to lift his overall
medal tally to 17, just one shy of the all-time record held by
Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
But a flying anchor leg from France's Yannick Agnel snatched
the gold from the fingertips of Phelps's team mate and great
individual rival Ryan Lochte.
Australia, the fastest qualifiers and looking to notch a
famous victory against their traditional rivals for pool
supremacy, were soundly beaten into fourth.
Four years ago in Beijing Phelps won gold in each of the
eight events that he swam. In London, after losing his 400
individual medley title to Lochte on Saturday, he has already
tasted defeat twice in two days.
U.S. swimmer Dana Vollmer ended a lifetime of frustration
and battles with her health to win the 100 metres butterfly gold
medal in world record time.
Swimming like a woman possessed, Vollmer sliced 0.08 seconds
off a record set at the 2009 world championships in Rome before
polyurethane bodysuits were banned.
Vollmer won a relay gold at Athens in 2004 a year after
heart surgery. But she failed to qualify for Beijing in 2008 and
did not return to form until she was diagnosed with an egg
allergy and put on a special diet.
Cameron Van der Burgh also broke the world record, for the
100 breaststroke, to become the first South African man to win
individual Olympic swimming gold.
His time trimmed 0.12 seconds off the record set by
Australia's Brenton Rickard, also in Rome in 2009.
Japan's Kitajima, who won the breaststroke double at Athens
in 2004 and Beijing four years later, was fifth, and will have
to look to the 200 in London to try to make it three in a row.
There was a further pool gold for France when top-ranked
Camille Muffat won the women's 400 freestyle ahead of Allison
Schmitt of the United States and Britain's defending champion,
Britain's quest for its best ever medal haul had got off to
a slow start when it failed to win one on the first day of
But Armitstead got in ahead of Adlington to set the ball
rolling on Day Two when she, Vos and Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya
launched a gutsy breakaway in torrential rain 50 km from the end
of the women's cycling road race.
Vos, the hot favourite, who won the points race on the track
in Beijing but has come second in the last five world
championship road races, made no mistake on the final sprint
down the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.
"The Olympics is different than the world championships. I
knew it was a different race," Vos told a news conference. "You
don't have to think about the years before."
Meanwhile China took its gold medal tally to six, twice that
of the nearest challenger, the United States.
Guo Wenjun produced a near-perfect last shot to retain her
Olympic title in the women's 10 metre air pistol shooting, while
Wu Minxia and He Zi took their expected easy gold in the women's
synchronised 3 m springboard diving.
The sight of rows of vacant seats at football stadiums,
Wimbledon, the Aquatic Centre and beyond has angered Britons who
tried and failed to buy tickets in the build-up to the Games
after being told they had sold out.
More gaps were reported on Sunday, many at the equestrian
eventing dressage despite the draw of Queen Elizabeth's
granddaughter Zara Phillips making her Olympic debut.
Organisers launched an inquiry to nail down precisely who
had not taken up their places and why, and filled many of the
seats with soldiers taking a break from Olympic security duties.
"It's infuriating to see so many empty seats on TV. Surely
it can't be beyond the organisers to allow real sports fans to
fill them up on a first-come first-served basis?" said Ed
Shorthose, a London-based father of two who had been trying for
months to get tickets to see the Games.
South Korea's women extended their domination of Olympic
archery by winning their seventh straight gold, although they
needed a near-perfect nine from their last arrow to overcome
China, who took their third successive silver.
The latest U.S. basketball "Dream Team", this time featuring
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, began their title defence with a
98-71 defeat of France, drawing 'oohs' from the crowd with
no-look assists, thunderous dunks and sublime handling.
But there was no such joy for Jordyn Wieber, who fled from
reporters as her dreams of being crowned all-around Olympic
gymnastics champion were shattered.
A scrappy floor routine and a far-below-par balance beam
display meant that it was her team mates Gabby Douglas and Aly
Raisman who qualified for the individual final.
"She did not make any major errors but what can you do,
sport is sport," said U.S. team co-ordinator Marta Karolyi.
At Wimbledon, where rain forced the closure of the roof over
centre court, women's second seed Agnieszka Radwanska slumped
out in the first round to Julia Goerges of Germany.
Britain's Andy Murray beat Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka
in straight sets but world number two Novak Djokovic of Serbia
made a slow start against Italy's Fabio Fognini before winning
6-7 6-2 6-2.
Tiny Georgia added to its mighty judo tradition when Lasha
Shavdatuashvili, the youngest competitor at just 20 and ranked
only 32 in the world, won his country's third ever judo gold.
But proving the old Olympic adage that taking part is more
important than winning was Hamadou Djibo Issaka, a rower from
Having taken up the sport only three months ago, the
wildcard entrant was roared on by 20,000 spectators as he
struggled to the finish line in the men's single sculls a full
minute and 39 seconds after the heat winner.
"There are many people who want to start rowing because I
have come to the Olympic Games," he said. "We will start when I
get back. We just have to wait for the boats to arrive."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)