The biggest surprise of the final day came when Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson tied the knot during Closing Ceremonies.

No? Well, if those weren't America's Idols we saw being hitched, then the biggest surprise of the final day was the men's marathon finish, when a dope ran out of the crowd and nearly tackled the leader, poor Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil.

We have to wonder how a crazed defrocked priest got by security. It must have been that clever and stealthy disguise. Only a crack security force could have spotted that freak show in a crowd.

That a loon could run onto the marathon course was one surprise, but a bigger one awaited when American Meb Keflezighi captured a startling silver medal.

It was the perfect capper for these Olympics, which ended last night when the giant cigarette was stubbed out and dropped in a huge half-empty beer can. No, no, really, the flame was extinguished with the requisite singing, fireworks and tots. Gotta have tots.

And now we're left to pass judgment. Like Jacques Rogge, we do not believe in declaring the Games "the best ever," or some such twaddle. These were very unique, very Greek and never dull. That's a pretty strong triple play.

We'll remember Hicham El Guerrouj's 1,500-5,000 sweep; it might be 80 years before we see another. The amazing U.S. women's teams, softball, basketball and soccer. Michael Phelps in the pool, and Michael Phelps giving up his relay spot to Ian Crocker.

We'll remember Gal Fridman winning Israel's first gold medal. Lauryn Williams winning silver. Deena Kastor's bronze in the marathon. The U.S. men sweeping the 200 and 400. The Iraqi soccer team, falling just short of a medal. A horse named Galan de Sauvagere whose sheer unbelievable beauty kept us glued to Channel 8 on the Magic TV.

We'll remember the Magic TV. It just spoke to us for the final time, displaying the following message: "The very end of transmission."

Well put.


Bronze medal to Alan Webb, who didn't make it out of the qualifying round for the 1,500 meters on Day 8. Silvers to Andy Roddick and Venus Williams, both eliminated from the tennis tournament on Day 6. Gold medal, now and always, to U.S. boxer Jason Estrada, who on Day 11 gave up in the middle of his super heavyweight quarterfinal and said afterward: "If I'm going to lose I'm going to lose getting hit as little as possible. I'd rather not get hit at all." All of America will follow your professional career with interest, Jason.

SURPRISE OF THE GAMES: Bronze to marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor. Silver to match Nia Abdallah's surprising silver in taekwondo. Gold to sabre gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, because a girl can't have too much gold.


"I feel no guilt."

-- Danish sailor Niklas Holm, after hitting and killing a pedestrian. Happily, Holm did not medal in the Star class. Unhappily, he did not capsize. Hey, if he feels no guilt, we feel no guilt.

SIGN OF THE ACROPOLIS: Nearly one in four athletes was drug tested in Athens, and that figure will vastly increase for Turin in 2006 and Beijing in 2008 -- good news for the tiny plastic cup industry.

-- Tracee Hamilton