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2012 Olympics in Review: London ‘Holds a Party and the World Joins In’

August 10, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
The London Games will be remembered for many firsts, like women's boxing and 'blade runner' Oscar Pistorius racing for South Africa. Olympians pushed the limits of athleticism, breaking more world records. Jeffrey Brown talks to USA Today's Christine Brennan about the most memorable moments of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: We have checked in several times these last two weeks with Christine Brennan, who is covering the Games for USA Today and ABC.

One last time, I talked with her a short while ago. And I know that many of you will be happy to hear that no spoiler alert — I think I can promise this — is necessary for our discussion.

Well, Christine, hello again.

Before we get into summing-up mode, I do want to ask you about one particular athlete, Usain Bolt, because this guy just strikes me as off the charts in terms of both performance and personality. Are you with me on that?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: I completely agree with you, Jeff.

It happened right behind me here on the track. And he’s done the unprecedented, winning the 100 and the 200 at this Olympics and, of course, winning it four years ago, the first ever to have a double-double in those two Olympic sprints.

And Usain Bolt is really one of the great stories coming out of these games, as he was out of the Beijing Games four years ago. And you’re right. I mean, he’s saying he’s the greatest of all time. Who can really argue? He’s certainly, I think you can make the case, the greatest Olympic sprinter of all time.

He’s not necessarily going to win the gold medal for humility, however.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: The — all the “me, me, me” stuff, all the — all the self-proclamations of greatness are — well, they’re over the top, which is kind of way he runs. So, in many ways, I guess that’s fitting.

But his celebration the other night as he took his time — you know, he goes very fast for 200 meters, but the rest of the way around the track to celebrate, it can take a long time. It actually impeded and kind of got involved with one of the medal ceremonies.

So that’s something that is a little troublesome, but this guy has an ego bigger than the entire United Kingdom at this point. And I guess, in some ways, who can blame him?

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so I know there’s more to come, a little bit more to come, over the weekend, but looking back on what you have seen, are there some standouts, particularly any surprises that struck you and will stay with you?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: You know, I ended up going to the women’s boxing venue. And I never thought I would go there.

And, first of all, women’s boxing for the first time is in the Olympic Games. And I ran into two fascinating stories, Katie Taylor from Ireland. The entire — it seemed like the Irish delegation, every fan with an Irish flag was there for a female boxer, just cheering their lungs out for her. She did win the gold.

And it was like the old days of prizefighting. You know, they’re cheering for their countryperson. In this case, it happens to be a woman and a female boxer. Same thing with Claressa Shields from the United States, Flint, Mich., 17 years old, also won the gold medal in boxing, the only gold for the U.S. in boxing, male or female at these games.

Seventeen, from Flint, her dad is in jail. One of her friends was killed while she was here in — by a gunshot. She is living a life that many of us don’t really know. And yet, the joy for her, in spite of her difficult upbringing, to win the gold medal, that was just terrific.

So, of all places, boxing, but — and women’s boxing, but I think it shows what these games are really all about.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you know, it’s interesting when you refer to the Irish going crazy for their boxer, because it seems as though different countries count success differently. Right? There are different sports that are really important to one country or another.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Well, that’s right.

With the way we look at things with a U.S.-centric point of view, obviously, we — the U.S. does very well in so many things and may well win the medal count. I say, who cares one way or the other? It’s the individual performances.

But the U.S. is across the board. And then you’re right. There are countries that come here and win a gold or two. You know, Great Britain used to be that country that would win just a few golds, until, of course, they hosted the games, and now they’re third place in the medal count and they’re doing very well.

And — but I think that, basically, it’s — you’re right. It’s that we look — we focus on the big nations, but some of those small nations, like the Irish story, those are some of the most compelling stories of these games, and we find them at venues all over town.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Olympics, of course, in the run-up to this, a lot of worries about security, a lot of worries about traffics, all kinds of concerns.

So, what’s it been like? What’s it been like being there?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: I think they have done a terrific job, Jeff.

And coming in, I — many of us thought that there could be trouble here. It’s such a melting pot, London, eight million people, and the entire world showing up at its doorstep. And they have done a great job.

And behind me right now are buses coming and going, and the transportation system has worked beautifully. It really has. The traffic has not been what we thought it would be. And then the actual events and the crowds, compared to Beijing four years ago, where the authorities were telling people to go home and get out of the public squares, of course, the Brits have been saying come in to the public squares.

So, just the feeling here, very much like Sydney 12 years ago, in terms of a city holding a party and the world joining in, and I think that will be certainly one of the London’s legacies.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right. So, just real briefly, one or two highlights for you that are going to stay with you?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Certainly being at Wembley Stadium last night, 80,000 people watching women’s soccer, the biggest crowd — Olympic crowd ever for women’s soccer, and the U.S. coming back after last year’s disappointment in the World Cup to beat Japan 2-1, that’s a story I think that everyone can relate to women’s soccer in the United States, and that story of redemption, of coming back 13 months later and getting the gold against the team that beat them at the World Cup.

And that was a fun story to watch.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Christine Brennan in London, once again, thanks so much for all — all your reporting and talking with us these past couple of weeks.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN: My pleasure, Jeff. Thank you.