UP IN SMOKE: The Brits proved they actually do know how to throw a decent party as they bid the world farewell from London. Photo courtesy Associated Press

That’s it. We’re all done. This thirtieth installment of these Olympic games is in the books. Did you make it through okay? 17 days of straight premier athletic competition is probably the Mecca to the truest of sports fans, but it can test the hardiness in us all.

Despite last night’s closing ceremonies, there were actually events earlier in the day, which means we need to do one last Olympic Recap! But first, let’s look at the nations atop the FINAL medal count.

Team Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States 46 29 29 104
China 38 27 22 87
Russia 24 25 33 82
Great Britain 29 17 19 65
Germany 11 19 14 44
Japan 7 14 17 38
Australia 7 16 12 35
France 11 11 12 34
South Korea 13 8 7 28
Italy 8 9 11 28

As we predicted, the US simply outgunned their closest competitor, China, down the stretch; so much so that the Asian nation was largely out of it by the time the sun rose on Sunday. For the Americans, the 104-medal haul is nearly as impressive as Beijing’s total, which was their highest total since the 1992 Barcelona games. More impressive is the fact that Team USA actually finished with ten more gold medals than they did in Beijing.

Great Britain, the host nation, was supposed to see a significant bump in their medal count for playing on home soil and that’s exactly what happened. The average rise for a host nation is about 50%, which means the UK would’ve needed to gather about 70 medals. They didn’t do quite that much, but the nation also saw a huge increase in its medal count between 2004 and 2008. So in two Olympic games, the British medal count has actually more than doubled. Let’s go ahead and call that a successful games.

I already mentioned that China sort of planed out in the final days, but they did it so much so that Russia actually nearly caught them. The Russians saw a very successful end stint to their games including one absolutely thrilling gold medal match.

That said match actually happened yesterday, so I really don’t know a better segue into our final Olympic recap.

Russia Gives Brazilian Volleyball a Taste of Their Own Medicine

A day after the Brazilian women’s volleyball team left the USA shell shocked, the Brazilian men got a taste of their own country’s medicine, and it wasn’t too sweet.

Let’s recap what happened with the women’s gold medal match real quickly. The US women absolutely walloped Brazil in the first set. Combined with their decisive victory over the South American nation in pool play, the logical jump was that the American’s would get the gold. But the Brazilians shook off one horrendous game like a pesky bug and eliminated Team USA in three straight sets.

Fast forward some 24 hours and the Brazilian men had the opportunity to give their country a sweep of the indoor volleyball gold medals. And, two and a half sets in, things were looking very promising. The Brazilians took the first two sets and were cruising the third though the Russians were nipping at their heels. But, at 24-23, Brazil had the match point for the gold. But Russia dodged that bullet and evened the game 24-all. The match was going to end at the standard first-to-25, foreshadowing a longer match than most anticipated.

At 29-27, Russia eventually took the third set, but Brazil still led two sets to one. Then, Brazil came out in the fourth set looking absolutely dazed and the Russians took that one as well. The two teams were going to a sudden-death fifth set to 15 points, and only one was walking away with the gold.

When the Russians served for match point, a blocked spike went flying off the hands of the Brazilians and skied out of bounds. Immediately, Russia broke into celebration as they thought they had it all sewn up, but their rejoice was premature. In attempting to spike the ball home, Russia had stepped over the midcourt line, and infraction that awards the point to Brazil. Was it another critical momentum shift? Actually, no. One point later, it was over.

 

DREAM COME TRUE: LeBron James and Team USA didn’t let their country down as they did what was expected: win gold. Photo courtesy Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Phantasmal Finish: Dream Team 2 Finishes Per Expectations

Not that you should be surprised and not that you shouldn’t have had such expectations, but US Men’s Basketball team won gold. They beat Spain, for the second time in as many Olympic games, in the basketball finals on Sunday.

The 107-100 game was sort of the epitome of what this men’s basketball tournament was all about: The world gave it their best shot, and their best shot simply wasn’t good enough. The only time Team USA appeared to be absolutely on top of their game was in that drubbing against Nigeria and — aside from one scare — they pretty much cruised through these Olympic games.

That’s why a lot of people wanted to compare them to the 1992 Barcelona Dream Team, but even with a gold medal in hand, I’m not sure they’re there quite yet. The important thing remember in that debate is that, when the Dream Team played, they had the top players in the world. A star on any other team was not more talented than the last man on the USA bench. This year’s squad was talented, to be sure, but I’m not sure the drop off between them and the rest of the world was quite that steep.

Now, the real question is how many players will be returning to Brazil in four years? A possible new rule may limit Olympic basketball players to those 23 and younger. If that were passed, obviously guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant — if he’s still playing — will not be eligible.

For Uganda, Medal is Better Late Than Never

Anyone who knows anything about the world knows that not all countries are created equally, and that applies to their Olympic triumphs as well. While the US and China race to see who can win the most medals, some national teams had their fingers crossed that they could win just one. On the last day of the Olympics, Uganda’s wish came true.

Their runner, Stephen Kiprotich, won the Men’s Olympic Marathon, upsetting a number of medal contenders including their neighbors in Kenya, a distance running powerhouse. His gold medal was Uganda’s first and only medal of these games, and only their fourth track and field medal in Track and Field in the modern Olympic era. Needless to say, the Ugandan Olympic faithful were finally rewarded for their two weeks of support with a minor albeit significant victory.

The Kenyan duo of Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang were the frontrunners for much of the race, but around mile 23 Kiprotich turned a corner and never looked back. Kipsang, who actually led the pack the longest, slowly fell off the pace. By the final mile, Kiprotich had a comfortable lead and could take in his accomplishment free of a stressful finish.

 

EXTINGUISHED: London sat dark early Monday morning, but not before the world celebrated these Olympic games one last time. Photo courtesy Associated Press

Closing Ceremonies Nearly as Engrossing as The Opening

When it came to the closing ceremonies, Great Britain once again pulled out all the stops. In fact, they went so far one stunt left Kate Middleton’s jaw practically on the floor.

If the theme in the opening ceremonies was the history and rise of Great Britain to become an international Olympic host three times, the closing ones’ was music, music, music. The Spice Girls, yes THOSE Spice Girls, made a reunion of sorts as they rode on top of cars through Olympic stadium, staying about as united as they have been the last decade and change. Then, Liam Gallagher, played his famous Oasis single ‘Wonderwall’ not with Oasis, but with his new band Beady Eye. But, the grand finale came when The Who closed out the show in a performance with all the bells and whistles; so many so it actually might’ve made their Super Bowl halftime show kind of lame.

The closing ceremonies were jam-packed with so much musical talent, it completely drowned out the opening show, which featured only Paul McCartney and — if you want to count it — British cyclist Bradley Wiggins ringing a bell…once.

But even with the star-studded talent, there was apparent theme of over-the-hill, past-their-prime musical artists that just seemed kind of funny. I joked on twitter that the rising smokestacks in the opening ceremonies could’ve been an awkward product placement for Viagara while the closing ceremonies was headlines by men that probably relied on the little blue pill.

Jokes aside, though, the show was entertaining enough and was probably the best thing on TV so late on a Sunday night. And with as much money as Great Britain invested into the festivities, that’s the least they could’ve accomplished.

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When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure you give him a follow @bclienesch for sports updates and other shenanigans!