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Cheerleaders at the Olympics? Here's Why You're Seeing So Many

Cheerleaders, Olympics AFP PHOTO /TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Why are there so many cheerleaders performing at the Olympics? Where are all these cheerleaders coming from?
—A.2.G., via the inbox

There are several packs of cheerleaders roving about in London as I write this, blinding us with their Day-Glo pink bras and perky...attitudes. A few whipped their hair back and forth—literally—for a preliminary game between the Argentinian and Lithuanian basketball teams, while other, more dancer-y types mesmerized unsuspecting Brits during a beach volleyball face-off.

So where are these people coming from, and is that hair dangerous? I found out.

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First of all, Olympic cheerleaders are nothing new. There was a squadron of them cheering on some of the athletes in Beijing, and cheerleading was a part of the entertainment for the Atlanta opening ceremonies in 1996. That said, we haven't quite seen so many cheerleaders, at so many events, as we have this year in London.

For these 2012 games, most of the cheerleaders came from one fabulous source: Ascension Eagles, a British charity-slash-cheer-program that currently has four squads of 16 cheerleaders performing during the games.

Specifically, a spokeswoman tells me, if you're looking at an indoor volleyball match or men's basketball match, you're looking at the Ascension Eagles.

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However, to be clear: Those cheeky dancer girls? Who gyrated to the Benny Hill theme? In 1950s-style swimsuits? For the beach volleyball competition? No. Not the Ascension Eagles.

Also not the Eagles? The eight men and eight women from the United States who will arrive in London Aug. 5 to cheer on the American men's basketball team. So there.

As for those pink and black leotards, I have the scoop on those, too. Check out my latest podcast for the info!

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