Some of the greatest Olympic moments have been come-from-behind efforts by the plucky American side against communist regimes, and this year’s games were no different. On one side, you had the Chinese, resurgent with a team almost as large as that at the Beijing Games and focused on acquiring gold medals at any cost. Up until the final day, China led the way in gold by a significant margin. Their dedicated sports schools and gaming of the Olympic’s structure made a compelling case for dominance.
Opposite them, you had the U.S., beset by aging stars and injuries, both physical and mental. Baton passes were botched, and attainable gold medals were left on the track. The U.S. was drowning in silver and bronze, leading the field in the medal count, but gold was much more challenging to come by than expected. Despite it all, we won in all categories, thanks to phenomenal basketball and volleyball victories in the waning hours of the Games. It’s deeply amusing that a self-consciously individualistic nation could best a collectivist one with teamwork of all things. Freedom of association is a beautiful thing.
The curmudgeons may grumble about the Games’ many flaws, but where else can we thrash despicable geopolitical foes on their very doorstep? Long live the Olympics.