Kovacevic: Cheerio, brilliant London Games
By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Monday, Aug. 13, 2012
LONDON — It's been 17 days, 32 sports, 205 nations, 10,500 athletes, and they've even run out of swimming medals, so now it's time to bid farewell to the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
Time to bid farewell ...
>> To the innate warmth of the Brits, which might fly in the face of the stodgy stereotype. Whether one of the 70,000 purple-clad volunteers or the 5,000 military men and women just back from fighting alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan, all did so with a smile.
Even when some of us were not yet caffeinated and not so pleasant.
Jolly good show.
>> To the elderly volunteer who, upon heading home after midnight from the volleyball venue, saw a sorry-faced Pittsburgh reporter looking lost near the East Brampton station.
She didn't just point the way. She walked me there. Down two flights of stairs. Then waved from a platform once she climbed back up.
>> To the unparalleled excellence of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, probably forever. They arrived with less than their best, and it was still better than anyone else's.
Might be a while until we see their kind again. There were no heirs apparent here, not in any sport, save perhaps Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen and Brazil soccer star Neymar.
>> To Swin Cash, pride of McKeesport, taking a knee alone at center court well after the lights had gone out on her second gold medal. She was praying.
In the annals of women in Pittsburgh sports, there is Suzie McConnell Serio and Cash, then everyone else.
>> To poor Giacomo, the lively little Italian-born manager of the London Bridge Starbucks. I feel your pain, amico mio , but I must take my business back home.
>> To Manteo Mitchell, who illustrated what America's sporting resolve is about.
You know his story. Ran the opening leg of the 4x400 meter relay, and most of his 400 came on - amazingly - a broken leg. The fibula, jarred by a minor misstep days earlier, just gave out at the halfway point.
"I felt it break." Mitchell would recall. "I heard it."
He ran until the baton was passed.
The relay team's run tied an Olympic record for the first round.
>> To all the drivers who took mercy on the pitiful Pittsburgh jaywalker crossing the street without looking right.
>> To the extraordinary security. Funny how no one ever mentions that when things don't blow up. And this was a challenge wholly unlike any in recent Olympics, with a densely populated city of 8 million and an aging network of underground transport.
All smooth, all secure, all minding the gap.
>> To Cassidy Krug, the diver out of Montour who lost a bronze on her final try but still stuck around to support the rest of the U.S. team right through the Closing Ceremony.
>> To Lisa. Never caught her last name, but she and two friends took me in when I accidentally wandered off the Olympic reservation into East London and was thoroughly lost.
At 2:30 a.m.
Lisa called me a cab and, having already quaffed a bit o' the old ale, submitted her own name with the reservation. But when the cabbie arrived, she adroitly noticed he had a "terribly foreign" look and advised me to tell him I was Lisa.
The guy fell for it, and I got back to the hotel with everything intact except the manhood.
>> To British celebrations, so joyful but with none of the obnoxious chest-thumping and finger-pointing of Vancouver.
>> To the 529 athletes of the U.S. Olympic team, who not only owned these Games but also were model citizens and continued to bury the unfair international image of the "ugly American."
Well, all except Wexford's Jake Herbert, who said this about the European and Asian wrestling officials he felt cost him a match: "Some people are gonna be in the refs' favor, and some aren't. Unfortunately, I'm wearing the United States of America. And it's the greatest country in the world. And these guys are all mad about that."
>> To Waynesburg's Coleman Scott, the epitome of the class almost invariably demonstrated in the uniquely wonderful sport of wrestling.
Scott lost a match, too, but battled back for bronze without bashing anyone from Turkmenistan.
>> To the inimitable Mike Krzyzewski, for guiding the Americans' NBA guys to an uplifting victory Sunday against Spain and, even more, for this gold-medal quote when a reporter asked how much coaching he actually had to do: "None. You got it. Absolutely none. I'm out every night with my family, drunk as a skunk. Wait 'til you see me tonight. I'll get in at 6 a.m. You are all invited to come out with me. We just roll out the damn ball, and that's it."
>> To the music. Oh, man, the music. As if anyone needed to be reminded, the Closing Ceremony painted a powerful picture of what this island has given to the world like no one else. If you made it through the John Lennon "Imagine" tribute with a dry eye, you're stronger than me.
>> To the BBC, which broadcast the Olympics with live events, varied sports, excellent commentators and ... uh, you really don't want to hear this, do you?
>> To every stranger I met who would fall for my test anytime I'm in a foreign land: When they ask where you're from, don't say "United States." Say "Pittsburgh" to get their reaction.
Almost every time, you'll get this word back within the reply: "Steelers."
We can get excited about the Penguins and now even the Pirates, but it reminds you who we really are.
>> To Trevor Barron, the race walker from Bethel Park who finished a lot higher than 26th in the eyes of others striving to overcome epilepsy.
Nothing here touched me more than watching this kid compete.
>> To Christa Harmotto, the Hopewell volleyballer who, like Barron, will be back in Rio. Maybe then she and the U.S. can finally beat nemesis Brazil on its own soil.
Harmotto had my favorite line of these Games, especially in the context of her clear disappointment at settling for silver Saturday.
"It's been a blessing to be here," Harmotto said, "to be part of this experience."
Yes. It absolutely has.
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