Winners and losers
After 17 days glued to the television, the post-Olympics hangover surely has set in. No more track and field on prime time. No more swimming. No more gymnastics. No more BMX or rowing. Back to regularly-scheduled programming (read: NFL training camp and Major League Baseball).
But before we tuck away our Olympic memories, here is a quick review of some of the biggest winners and losers of these 2012 Games.
Winner: Weather forecasters. After months of record rainfall, Olympians expected to be competing in puddles and waterlogged venues. Visitors packed galoshes, slickers and "brollies" (umbrellas). The weather changed just in time. It was unseasonably hot and sunny in the days leading up to Opening Ceremonies, and other than the occasional rain shower during the Games, the weather held up nicely.
Loser: Ticketless tourists. There was huge demand for tickets, but if you arrived here without tickets in hand, you were out of luck. Scalping is illegal, and they really enforce those laws. When they did release some tickets after British fans were outraged at the sight of empty seats on TV in the opening days, those tickets were sold online only to British and European fans.
Winner: Michael Phelps. The most hyped story entering these Olympics was the rivalry between Phelps and Ryan Lochte. But that storyline faded and Phelps wound up getting most of the headlines after winning four golds and two silvers to bring his career total to 22 (18 golds, two silvers, two bronzes). He became the most decorated Olympian of all time, and if he were a country, he would rank 47th all-time in medals.
Loser: Australian swimming. Oi! Oi! Oi! The Aussies usually rule at the pool, but they had their worst showing in 20 years. They won 10 medals in swimming, half of what they won in Beijing. For the first time since 1976, they didn't win a single gold. James Magnussen, who came in with much fanfare, left with a silver and a bronze. The joke Down Under was that the team was going to change its colors from green and gold to green and silver (ouch!). The federation has launched a review to figure out what went wrong.
Winner: Usain Bolt. Once again, the Jamaican sprinter stole the show with golds in the 100 meters and 200 meters and the 4x100 relay. He also declared himself a "living legend," and who can argue? He is, arguably, the greatest sprinter of all time. And, he certainly is the greatest showman.
Winner: Volunteers. They were the 70,000 unsung heroes of these games. They were unfailingly cheerful and helpful. One woman controlling the crowds became a YouTube sensation when she shouted through a megaphone: "We will be telling our children's children about this day. Some of you will say, 'I worked for the Olympics.' Some of you will say, 'I watched the Olympics.' I'll tell them I listened to it outside and I heard a bit."
Loser: Cab drivers. Many Londoners left town for fear of predicted chaos and huge crowds, and visitors were urged to use public transport, leaving the cabbies with less work than usual for this time of year.
Winner: Women. This was the first Olympics in which every delegation included at least one female athlete, Saudi Arabia entered women, and the U.S. team had more women than men. The U.S. women won team golds in soccer, basketball, water polo, gymnastics, rowing eights and dominated at the pool and track. Claressa Shields, 17, won a gold in women's boxing.
Loser: Badminton. Eight female badminton players — a pair from China, a pair from Indonesia, and two pairs from South Korea — were expelled for throwing matches in attempts to rig the draw. It tainted the entire competition and was a disgrace to the fans who paid big bucks for tickets to those matches.
Winner: Oscar Pistorius. The South African double-amputee didn't win a medal, but he forever changed the perception of disabled athletes by running against able-bodied athletes. The Paralympics open here in two weeks, ticket sales are soaring and Pistorius (who is competing) is surely a reason.
Loser: U.S. boxing. U.S. boxers won 104 medals between 1904 and 2004, but they were held to one bronze in 2008, and were completely shut out here.
Winner: USA women's soccer. The spunky U.S. women avenged their 2011 World Cup loss by beating Japan for the Olympic gold medal. A crowd of 80,000-plus was at Wembley for the occasion.
Loser: Brazil men's soccer. Surely, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic host nation is in panic mode after its soccer team — a preview of the 2014 team — was upended by Mexico in the gold-medal game. The five-time World Cup champions have never won an Olympics, and this was the one they were heavily favored to win.
Winner: USA women's gymnastics. Not only did they win the team gold medal, but Gabby Douglas was the surprise winner of the all-around gold medal, becoming the first black woman to win. World-champion Jordyn Wieber didn't live up to expectations, failing to qualify for the all-around or win an individual event medal, but overall women's gymnastics was a big winner.
Loser: USA men's gymnastics. They came in with hopes of contending for the team gold medal, and wound up fifth. Danell Lleyva of Miami was brilliant on high bar to clinch the all-around bronze, but otherwise, the men didn't meet their mark.
Winner: NBC. Heading into the final weekend, more than 210 million viewers had tuned into NBC for the Olympics, making it the second-most watched event in U.S. television history. Only the Beijing Olympics had more with 215 million.
Loser: NBC viewers. Sports fans prefer to watch live competition and NBC showed much of its coverage on four and five-hour delays, including big events such as the Opening Ceremony, gymnastics and swimming. In this age of social media, most fans knew the results before they turned on their TV sets.
Winner: Twitter. Speaking of social media, these Olympics were dubbed The Twitter Games, as athletes and media tweeted results, news and photos in record numbers. There were 3.5 million Olympic-related tweets during the Opening Ceremonies alone, and more tweets each day than during the entire Beijing Olympics.
Loser: Not all the Tweets were harmless. Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou was expelled from the Olympic team in the first weekend after she posted a racist joke about Africans on Twitter. A 17-year-old man was arrested after he sent nasty and somewhat threatening tweets directed at British teen diver Tom Daley, writing: "You let your dad down, you let your country down." Daley's father died of cancer last year.
Biggest Winner: Great Britain. After much fretting over transportation, security, crowds, and weather, everything ran brilliantly. The historic venues made for breathtaking backdrops for 17 days of drama we won't soon forget. And British athletes will be indelibly engrained in our memories — from heptathlete Jess Ennis to cyclist Chris Hoy to distance runner Mo Farah to tennis player Andy Murray, who finally won a title at Wimbledon. Well done. Now, Keep Calm, and Carry On.