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Saying Goodbye To The 2012 Olympic Games


And now, a final check-in, alas, from the Olympics.


WERTHEIMER: Gold, and a handful of other precious metals are what the U.S. Olympic team has racked up. For more on the final tally, we're joined by NPR's Mike Pesca, who is in London. Mike, welcome.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Thanks. There is one bright spot to the end of the Olympics: not having to hear that song that much anymore.

WERTHEIMER: There you go.


WERTHEIMER: This has been a hard-fought battle, but it does look like the United States will take home the most medals of any country, and a lot of that is due to women.

PESCA: Yeah, more than half the medals won by Americans will be won by American women, and two-thirds, about two-thirds of the gold medals. You have to credit Title IX, of course the landmark civil rights reform that opened up sport to women.

Now, it has been pointed out that a lot of the medals that the U.S. women are winning - boxing medals, Judo medals - those aren't sports that are contested scholastically. So the question is, you know, how much Title IX, which makes schools give equal opportunity to women, you know, how much credit does it get when some of these medals are trained out of school.

And I think the answer is still a lot because it changed our attitudes, and unlike other countries, American women don't - for by and large and less and less are facing this bias against women participating in sport, and a lot of credit goes to the law in that case.

You know, you have countries like Great Britain and Brazil. Look at their soccer teams and soccer traditions. But, you know, girls playing soccer, it's just not as accepted in those countries as it is in the U.S. I think Title IX gets big credit for that.

And another theme of the Olympics, if you want to talk about themes, and this does deal with American women. I do think a lot of the athletes have not been understanding the role of media. So you want to talk about a couple of American women: Hope Solo, the goalie on the U.S. soccer team was upset with something that Brandy Chastain, a former U.S. soccer player, but more to the point the announcer for the NBC soccer game set.

You know, Hope maybe didn't understand that Brandy's job is not to root on the team. Same thing with Lolo Jones, who was very upset with what the New York Times wrote in advance of her hurdle race.

WERTHEIMER: Now for some context here, Lolo Jones is, many would say, the very attractive American hurdler who was on a lot of magazine stands but didn't make it on to the medal stands.

PESCA: Yeah, and she wound up crying on the "Today" show. She didn't win a medal, and she blamed the New York Times - not exclusively, but she said: How could you write that about a U.S. athlete right before the games? That's not what the New York Times job is, not to win these athletes' medal.

I think you could also put Usain Bolt's comments again Carl Lewis: Fine for Usain to say that he has no respect for Carl Lewis, but Carl Lewis was asked his opinion as a commentator - essentially as a member of the media - said the Jamaicans might be doing this, winning these medals scurrilously.

So Usain, Carl is in a different job now. He's not winning medals, he's making statements.

WERTHEIMER: So Mike, what's the curveball on this last day?

PESCA: Well, we have this event, the decathlon, and the decathlon supposedly crowns the world's greatest athlete. And if you watch it, it does. I mean, it is true that those guys are the best. But the only reason we say it's the world's greatest athlete is because of that title. I just think the scoring is weird.

Ashton Eaton won the decathlon with 800 - 8,869 points. What does that mean? The world's record in decathlon is 9,039 points. I can't contextualize that. There is another event at the Olympics, the omnium, and the omnium, and the Omnium is sort of the decathlon of bicycle track racing, but it's only six events. They have a nice clean scoring system: If you win you get a point, if you come in second you get two, the guy with the lowest score at the end wins like in golf.

I think if the decathlon did that, we would maybe understand it better.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Mike Pesca, he's in London for a little while longer. Thank you, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.


WERTHEIMER: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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