Michael Phelps reaffirmed his status as the greatest swimmer of all time in the face of rival Ryan Lochte. New stars, such as American Missy Franklin, were born. Old stars, such as Usain Bolt, went supernova, with the Jamaican runner establishing himself as the greatest sprinter ever, a joy of life virtually exploding from his taut body as he played the superhero after winning his golds.
Women made up 44 percent of competitors at these games, the highest of all time, including the first-ever female athletes from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei. American women — including those who won the soccer final against Japan that marked the NBC Sports Network’s highest ratings ever — took home 29 gold medals, compared with their countrymen’s 17. And the women of 2012 also brushed aside the rude missives that have marked the age of Twitter, such as those aimed at gymnast Gabby Douglas’s hair.
“It doesn’t matter how we look — we just won the gold medal,” said Kayla Harrison, the gold medalist in judo for the United States. “It doesn’t matter what we wear — we’re part of Team USA, and there’s no better color than the American flag.”
Montenegro won its first Olympic medal. The United States won its 2,757th. There were Olympic rivalries, friendly and otherwise. The Danes hurled the insult “Furniture makers!” at the Swedes, a reference to the fine wares at Ikea. The U.S. basketball team traded (alleged) punches with Argentina’s squad.
As Olympic host cities are wont to do, London already seemed to be developing a rivalry with Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Games. Brazil, in a music smack-down it almost won, foreshadowed a tropical carnival of sport and samba during its rousing handoff spot Sunday night. Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday declared there could be “shadows in the sunshine,” citing worries over “building delays, bribery and a hidden underworld” in the South American nation.
Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, said in an interview that he had politely declined eccentric London Mayor Boris Johnson’s suggestion of pulling off something slightly more insane for the Olympic handoff. Nevertheless, he played the rivalry game to a T.
“Of course ours will be the best Games ever,” he said. “Come on. They’ll be in Rio. So what else could they be?”
Karla Adam contributed to this report.