LONDON — The closing band at the Closing Ceremony was The Who, and the last song was
The basketball players are millionaires for whom the Olympics is a diversion from the NBA. The handballers are minor club pros for whom the Olympics are everything. France’s Thierry Omeyer, who dominated the tournament, is the greatest handball goalkeeper of all time, but by the time I make it back to New York tomorrow, he will have returned to total anonymity … and I will be back covering basketball.
In London, I avoided seeing a second of Olympic basketball in person, and have no regrets about that. The goal for the blog’s first Summer Olympics was to see everything else. After the Opening Ceremony, it was off to badminton, then beach volleyball, gymnastics, beach volleyball again (the scene was just too good), time-trial cycling, table tennis, archery, triathlon, tennis, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, fencing, more women’s boxing (for Magnificent Mery Kom), three sessions of track and field, BMX, handball, race-walking and handball again. Sixteen sports in 16 days. Seventeen if you count pin-trading.
I figured we’d be treated to Pink Floyd at the Closing — it turned out to be Ed Sheeran covering
I went to the souvenir store outside the Athletes’ Village yesterday to get a shirt for my mom, because my initial idea to freeze-dry strawberries and cream from Wimbledon, or as she says it, Wimble-ton, was deemed unfeasible. (Don’t worry, mom: Your shirt isn’t a Bosco.) The most photogenic part of the Athletes’ Village, or at least the part of the Village the media was allowed to see, was the giant, world-map pin-board in the store’s lobby, where athletes and officials posted notes of encouragement for anyone they felt like encouraging. The notes ranged from the lipstick-good-luck variety (is this considered racy in Oman?) …
… to this plea for Michael Phelps to win seven golds, set seven new world records and enjoy the comfy chairs in some other athlete’s village dorm room:
That note-writer didn’t get what she wanted (in the pool, at least; it’s unknown if Phelps tried the chairs). It’s advisable to arrive at the Olympics without any demands, and collect experiences as they come. I did not expect to show up at the 50k race walk and meet the son of Great Britain’s
I didn’t expect to get quoted anonymously in the The New York Times, either, after helping a few of their confused reporters find the press seats at Horse Guards Parade (for beach volleyball) on day three. From their subsequent article on the scene:
Oddly enough, a fair number of spectators said that when it came right down to it, they wished they were somewhere else. … “I don’t cover this normally,” said a reporter for Sports Illustrated, scurrying into the stadium.
Oddly enough, a fair number of spectators said that when it came right down to it, they wished they were somewhere else. …
“I don’t cover this normally,” said a reporter for Sports Illustrated, scurrying into the stadium.
The quote is accurate, but not the context. I don’t cover beach volleyball or the Olympics normally — does anyone? — but wasn’t exactly itching to be elsewhere. Working in the sun at a makeshift beach next to 10 Downing Street? Seeing 16 sports in 16 days, including world records by Bolt and Rudisha? Paul McCartney closing the Opening, The Who closing the Closing? What a miserable assignment, what a miserable experience.