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London Olympics Wind Down


It's the last weekend of the Games, and Team U.S.A. has taken the lead in the medal count. Can the Yanks break 100? It's looking likely. Today alone, there are 32 gold medals at stake. Here to make sure we tune in for the best events, NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, can you get your hands on one of those 32 medals?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I'm not going to lie to you, Linda. I am a medal contender in the little-known media event known as typing.


GOLDMAN: Typing, eating, asking questions, sleeping on buses. Wish me luck.

WERTHEIMER: OK. Absolutely, good luck.


WERTHEIMER: So last week, you said you though the games were kind of lackluster. You were giving it a six out of 10. Have you changed your mind?


GOLDMAN: Yeah. Mere hours after I undersold these games, I witnessed perhaps the transcendent moment a week ago, when Team Great Britain won three track and field golds. There was the heptathlon hero Jess Ennis winning gold and weeping on the podium, the thrilling men's 10,000 meter race won by Somali-born Mo Farrah of Great Britain, followed in second place by his training partner and buddy, Galen Rupp of the U.S.A.

The whole night was the pivot point, I think, for these games, and since then, not only more success for Team Great Britain - it looks like they'll have a strong, third-place finish in the medal count, behind the U.S. and China - but transcendent moments all around.

Usain Bolt, of course, did his thing, repeating in the 100 and 200 and proclaiming himself a legend, although IOC president Jacques Rogge said he's only an icon at this point. And then women's soccer gave us two phenomenal games: a thrilling semifinal game in which the U.S. beat Canada in extra time, and then the gold medal win for the Americans over Japan.

Linda, Britons haven't been so keen on women's soccer, but 80,000 people watched the final at famed Wembley Stadium in London, and it was quite a scene. So, from the six, I'm going to give the games an eight now.

WERTHEIMER: OK. What events should we look out for today?

GOLDMAN: Well, perhaps one last burst of patriotic pride. Mo Farah is in the 5,000 meters today. And if he becomes the seventh man to do the 5,000, 10,000 double in the Olympics, you may just hear the euphoria in Washington. Also one of the really cool traditional Olympics sports, modern pentathlon, the men compete today.

You know, it's said that multi-event decathletes and heptathletes are the all-around best athletes. They do a variety of track and field events. But you could argue that pentathletes are truly the best athletes because of the diversity of what they do: fencing, swimming, equestrian. And then events four and five are combined. It's running and shooting. So you have to shoot while you're breathing heavily. And it's all in one day. Makes it more fan and TV friendly. It should be a great event.

WERTHEIMER: Now you have to pack up and head home in a day or so. What is on your mind as you wrap up the Games?

GOLDMAN: Other than sleep?


GOLDMAN: I always like to think about the athletes who arrived anonymously and leave anonymously, at least anonymous to a global audience. This includes the bulk of Olympic athletes. It's estimated that 80 percent came here without a realistic chance to win a medal. Many of them will go away with small victories. Maybe they set a national record for their country, maybe just a personal best time. Maybe they just loved being in the athletes' village, hanging out with Lebron or Usain or other mega-stars, or maybe they have picked up a new girlfriend or boyfriend.

All those stories, Linda, you hear about what goes on in the athletes' village? True. I believe it was U.S. soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo who said what happens in the athletes' village, stays in the athletes' village.

WERTHEIMER: I was very impressed, though. I mean, I think just getting to the athletes' village is a huge accomplishment.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely.

WERTHEIMER: And I know that you have been behaving yourself in the athletes' village and elsewhere. Any closing thoughts before you bid farewell to the land of crumpets?

GOLDMAN: Closing ceremonial thoughts? I was one of those skeptics who said it could never live up to Beijing. I learned once again that every Olympic Games is its own moment. Danny Boyle, the movie director and artist behind the opening ceremony, he said a wise thing about his production. You know, don't even try to compete with China, which had that unforgettable mega-opening ceremony. Do your own thing was Boyle's attitude.

And I think that goes for these entire games. There were plenty of interesting and stirring and disheartening things to go around. It was a very good Olympics, although I am so done with baked beans for breakfast.


WERTHEIMER: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thank you very much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.