London wraps up a dazzling Olympics

Sunday, August 12, 2012 | 9:24 AM    

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LONDON, England (AP) — Usain Bolt made himself a living legend — just ask him. Michael Phelps swam a last lap into history. A man ran on carbon blades. Tens of thousands turned out daily.

The nightmare that was supposed to be the 2012 Olympics — gridlock and chaos Underground and over ground, a city locked down by terrorist threats, day after day of gray and drizzle — simply never materialised.

Instead, London threw a five-ring party.

“Nobody wanted to sit this dance out,” said Sebastian Coe, the two time Olympic 1,500-metre champion and chief of the London organising 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.

Organisers scrambled to sell last-minute tickets, and ended up giving some to the military, after unsightly photos of empty seats were splashed across the famously cantankerous British press.

Some moments were downright ugly. A Greek triple jumper made a racist joke on Twitter. A Swiss football player used a slur to describe the South Koreans who had just won, and said that they “can go burn.”

At what were 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 the action on big screens. Flags — the Union Jack most prominently — became shirts and shorts, caps and capes, earrings and nail polish. Fans wore their national colors proudly, and literally.

And what a show they saw.

Bolt, the Jamaican track sensation, blew away the field in the 100 metres in 9.63 seconds and the 200m in 19.32, becoming the first athlete to win both sprints at consecutive Olympics.

He was so dominant that sometimes the question was not just whether he would win but whether he would run at full speed to the finish line — 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 on the next-to-last night of the games, running a blistering anchor leg to set a world record in the 4x100 relay for his third gold and first team below 37:00 seconds.

Phelps is going into retirement. Bolt has hinted he won’t be back in 2016.

Elsewhere on the track, Kenya’s David Rudisha led for the entire race in the 800 metres and broke his own world record by a tenth of a second.

Carmelita Jeter anchored the American 4x100-metre women relay team to a winning time of 40.82 seconds, more than half a second better than a mark that had stood for more than a quarter-century.

The US used a dominant showing in track and field to blow past China and lock up the races for total medals and for golds.

In the pool alone, they 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.

Phelps has 18 golds alone to show for his career, and 22 overall medals.

Britain piled up 28 gold medals and will finish third in the table. Not since another London Games, in 1908, has Britain performed so well.

Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old American gymnast, won two gold medals, including the all-around — and got to meet Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, to boot.

Women’s boxing made its debut, and was a huge hit. Britain’s Nicola Adams, Ireland’s Katie Taylor and US teen Claressa Shields became stars in their gold-medal bouts.



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