The US got what they wanted from the London Olympics. So did Britain, riding the wave of home-field advantage for their best Olympic showing in more than a century.
Some of that may have come at the expense of China, who failed to match their numbers from Beijing four years ago and finished only five medals ahead of Russia — where the Winter Olympics will be held in February 2014.
The small Caribbean island of Grenada had their first gold medalist and six other nations had athletes reach the Olympic podium for the first time. Meanwhile, Australia took another step back in their Olympic freefall after a scintillating show in Sydney 12 years ago.
When competition ended on Sunday, there was no question who the dominant nation was. However, US athletes were not the only success stories in London.
“I think these Games were absolutely fabulous,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.
The final numbers: 104 medals for the US, 46 of them gold, their highest total at a “road” Olympics. China won 87 medals, 38 gold. Britain won 29 golds, third-most of any nation, and 65 medals overall — good for fourth in that category behind Russia, a winner of 82 medals, 24 of them gold.
In all, 85 nations won something in London, from the US to Tajikistan, and dozens of points in between.
“We are immensely proud of the success that our athletes had in London,” US Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Scott Blackmun said on Sunday.
With good reason.
Red, white and blue was everywhere in London over the past two-plus weeks, waved proudly and often.
And remember, that is not just the color scheme of the US flag, but the Union Jack of the British, too. The hosts delivered on a promise of greatness this year — and possibly set the stage for continued success down the road.
“What I’ve witnessed in the last couple of weeks has been both uplifting and energizing,” London Games chairman Sebastian Coe said. “I don’t think any country that has staged the Games or any city that staged the Games is ever the same afterwards.”
Neither are the athletes who win them. A boxer from Thailand protested losing a gold-medal fight to a Chinese opponent, and shed tears of disbelief when the decision was announced. He cried again 10 minutes later, holding his silver medal for the first time.
“I’m happy. I’m still really happy that I’ve got this silver medal,” said the Thai fighter, Kaeo Pongprayoon. “I’m really proud. It might not be gold, but it’s a medal I can bring back to the Thai people.”
The US, well, they brought a whole slew of hardware back to the US people. The 46 golds in London were one more than the gold haul from Paris in 1924 and Mexico City in 1968.
LeBron James recognized that winning gold means more than, well, winning gold after he and the US men’s basketball team won the Americans’ final Olympic title in London on Sunday afternoon.
“It means more than myself, it means more than my name on my back. It means everything to the name on the front,” he said.
The final numbers for the Americans in London will not go down as record-setting for all Olympics.
They won 83 golds (174 overall) at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, boycotted by most of the Soviet bloc countries; and 78 golds (a whopping 239 overall) at the 1904 St Louis Games, when US athletes won roughly seven out of every eight medals.
Different eras, different dynamics. By any measure, this year will be considered a booming success for the US. Many thought the Chinese would go home with more medals than the Americans, and that did not come close to happening.
“We’re Americans and we’re human,” said Teresa Edwards, the USOC’s mission chief for London. “When I was competing, when I went up against another country, I felt they wanted the same thing I wanted, but we were given an opportunity to prove it at that moment, and that’s what these Games give us.”