This blog post has been updated.
I’ll admit a few things here about the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and acknowledge a surprise or two.
* I didn’t like the opening ceremony. Yes, it was colorful to the max, but I didn’t understand much of its significance. My Olympic opening ceremony gold standard was set in 1996 in Atlanta, when the organizers surprised the world as Muhammad Ali — the Greatest — stepped out of the shadows to light the cauldron. I cried like a baby sitting in front of my TV watching The Champ light the flame, as did all the spectators in the stadium that night.
What’s more, there was something oddly out of place when the Brazilians decided to inject the politics of climate change and global warming into the ceremony. While I generally agree that climate change is a profound international problem, was the Olympic opening ceremony the appropriate place to make that statement?
* I hadn’t planned on watching much of the competition, but then I did watch. A lot of it.
* Michael Phelps made me proud. The zillion-time gold medal winning swimmer came back for his fifth Olympics and at the age of 31 managed to dominate the men’s swimming competition. He overcame some serious personal demons to get himself into the best shape of his life and he didn’t disappoint. Five golds and a silver? Not bad … for an “old man.”
* Katie Ledecky was the actual star of the pool, though. The young American not only was winning her races, she was winning them by a lot.
* Simone Manuel was another swimming star who made me proud. The young Texan came out of nowhere to capture our hearts, particularly as she wept while listening to the National Anthem during the awards ceremony.
* The U.S. women’s gymnastics team. What more can I say about those youngsters? Holy moly, man!
* Gabby Douglas, one of the gymnasts, had nothing for which to apologize for not putting her hand over heart during the anthem. She stood there respectfully and showed class by riveting her eyes on the flag as it rose.
* Usain Bolt is the fastest human being in the world. The Jamaican sprinter served notice that it’s not how well you start a race that matters, it’s how you finish it. As ol’ Dizzy Dean used to say while calling a baseball game on TV, “That fella can pick ’em up and lay ‘e down.”
* Oh, and one more takeaway. The swimmer Ryan Lochte, who is 32 years of age, is about to lose a fortune in endorsement income because he messed up so royally by partying with his swim-team buddies and then making up the story about being robbed at a Rio gasoline service station. Good grief, dude! Get out of my face!
I don’t know how the International Olympic Committee chairman is going to characterize the Rio Games when he closes the event down Sunday night. Will it be “outstanding,” or “exceptional,” or simply some other less-glorious adjective? Observers often rate the success of an Olympics by the way the IOC boss hails the event at its conclusion.
I’ll rate the Games “outstanding.”
It was a fun ride in Rio.