Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By STEPHEN WILSON The Associated Press
LONDON - Usain Bolt made himself a living legend -- just ask him. Michael Phelps swam a last lap into history. A man ran on carbon blades. Two track stars and a long jumper produced perhaps the greatest night in British sports history.
The nightmare that was supposed to be the 2012 Olympics -- gridlock and chaos Underground and overground, a city locked down by terrorist threats, day after day of gray and drizzle -- simply never materialized. Instead, London had a five-ring party.
"Nobody wanted to sit this dance out," said Sebastian Coe, the two-time Olympic 1,500-meter track champion and chief of the London organizing committee. "Everybody has wanted to be involved."
Or, as the stately Economist said: "Britain looked at itself and liked what it saw."
The games were not without controversy.
Eight badminton players were sent home in disgrace for trying to lose, doing it to gain a better draw in their tournament but violating the Olympic spirit of competition.
Organizers scrambled to sell last-minute tickets and ended up giving some to the military, after unsightly photos of empty seats were splashed across a cantankerous British press.
Some moments were downright ugly. A Greek triple jumper made a racist joke on Twitter. A Swiss soccer player used a slur to describe the South Koreans who had just won, and said they "can go burn."
At what was called the first social media Olympics, both remarks made it around the world in seconds. The punishment came almost as quickly: Go home.
The athletes who misbehaved were drowned out anyway. Tens of thousands of people flocked daily into Olympic Park. They filled Olympic Stadium for morning heats. They gave the handball arena a new name: The Box That Rocks.
They camped out on the grass to watch on big screens. Flags -- the Union Jack most prominently -- became shirts and shorts, caps and capes, earrings and nail polish. Fans wore national colors proudly, and literally.
And what a show they saw.
Bolt, the Jamaican track sensation, blew away the field in the 100 meters in 9.63 seconds and the 200 in 19.32, becoming the first athlete to win both sprints at consecutive Olympics.
He was so dominant that sometimes the question wasn't just whether he would win but whether he would run at full speed to the finish, and what theatrics he would produce to celebrate.
He did pushups on the track. He struck the pose of an ancient, triumphant Olympian, or perhaps a superhero.
"I am now a living legend," he said. "Bask in my glory."
Bolt struck a third time Saturday on the next-to-last night of the games, running a blistering anchor leg to set a world record in the 400 relay for his third gold. He was so good that track officials let him keep the baton.
Elsewhere on the track, David Rudisha of Kenya led for the entire race in the 800 meters and broke his own world record. The standout performance of the games, proclaimed no less a track star than Coe himself.
Carmelita Jeter anchored the American 400-meter relay team to a winning time of 40.82 seconds, more than a half-second better than a mark that stood for more than a quarter-century.
The United States used a dominant showing in track and field to blow past China and lock up the races for total medals and golds. Going into the final day, the United States had 44 gold medals, one shy of its record for an Olympics on foreign soil.
In the pool alone, the Americans won 31 medals. And Michael Phelps, in a dazzling farewell, became the most decorated Olympian of all time. He came away with four golds and six overall to eclipse not just his contemporary rival, Ryan Lochte, but Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who held the previous record for most Olympic medals with 18.
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