Photos: Olympic athletes sport tattoos in London

Photos: Olympic athletes sport tattoos in London
Moldova's Vasilli Belous' tattoo is seen as he fights Ukraine's Taras Shelestyuk during a men's welterweight 69-kg preliminary boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
LONDON — The British capital is awash in Olympic ink — tattoo ink, that is.

At Olympic venues around London, competitors flaunt marks of blood, sweat, tears — and hopefully glory — on toned arms, hips and torsos.

But tattoos of the iconic Olympic logo — the five interlocked rings — aren't just for the world's top athletes. Amateurs, performers at the opening ceremony and tourists as well have been inspired to get the Olympic spirit under their skin.

And it's not just in London: Thousands of miles away in Chicago, freelance writer Arika Kaosa says she is planning to ink the Olympic rings on the back of her left ankle next week.

"I love how the colors of the rings represent colors in flags of all the national teams originally in Olympic competition," said the 25-year-old, who has been following the games on television at home.

"I will use this tattoo as a positive motivator to get back into the level of performing I was previously at," said the keen tennis player.

In the Olympic host city, tattoo parlors say they have been getting some extra business from athletes and people who are involved in the games.

One potential customer they should look out for: 17-year-old American swimmer Missy Franklin, who has already won four golds and one bronze, has told reporters she wants to get an Olympic rings tattoo once the games are over.

Many Olympians like to record their achievements or tell their life story through body art — and tattoos of the five rings are so common sometimes it seems that non-inked bodies are the minority.

The art is most visible on swimmers — Michael Phelps has the rings on his hip, and fellow Americans Ryan Lochte and Matthew Grevers both sport them on their biceps. British diver Nicholas Robinson-Baker has a large colored one on his chest, while Canada's Brent Hayden complements large tattoos on his torso and arms with the rings — adorned with a maple leaf — on his back.

British gymnast Louis Smith wears a quote, "What I deserve I earn," on his back, a canvas that also features a winged cross and two large angels. Also spotted on bodies across London this week: Butterflies, a mammoth, tattoo sleeves, a Bible verse, crosses and roses.

But the plain Olympic rings are the most popular choice for tourists and fans who want a permanent souvenir of their trip.

"They're mainly Americans — there's a hell of a lot of Americans in town," said Darryl Gates, owner of Diamond Jacks, a tattoo parlor in London's Soho area.

"A few years ago Led Zeppelin played here and we did Led Zeppelin tattoos for two weeks. That's kind of what this is like," he added.

Supporters of the British home team are getting something more patriotic.

"We did the Team GB lion logo on two athletes who came in on opening ceremony day," said Scott Maclaren at the Fulham Tattoo Center, referring to a stylized head of the animal with streaks of color resembling the Union Jack.

Those considering getting an Olympic tattoo may want to stick to the simpler designs. One American visitor picked a more elaborate one and it will make her remember the London games — but for all the wrong reasons.

Jerri Peterson wanted to commemorate her moment as an Olympic torchbearer, but her tattoo artist, based in Georgia, misspelt Olympic. Her body art reads "Oylmpic Torch Bearer" instead.

"I looked at it and I was so disappointed. I called my husband and he giggled a little bit," Peterson, from Atlanta, told the BBC after she carried the torch through the English town of Derby. "Then I started laughing about it and I've laughed ever since."