RIO DE JANEIRO – The Rio Olympics are over. You’ve heard about all of the problems that threatened or hampered the Games. Here are the things that went right:
1. The new games worked: Golf seemed a superfluous sport to add to the Olympics, and a grab for ratings, but the course turned out to be beautiful and the play was inspired. Matt Kuchar taking third in any other tournament would have been boring; watching him revel in taking bronze as an American Olympian was endearing.
Rugby returned to the Olympics in the form of Rugby Sevens and was highly entertaining.
2. No terrorism: Any time a major event is held without a terrorist attack, the authorities have done admirable work.
3. What Zika? The Zika virus was not nearly the threat it was expected to be. It was more dangerous to be on Miami Beach than on Copacabana Beach.
4. Rinse, repeat: The Rio organizers should still be ashamed to allow Olympians to compete in unclean water, but the filth didn’t affect the competition in any noticeable way, and many athletes complained that the story line was overblown.
5. Crime and punishment: There were robberies and thefts during the Olympics — someone even stole a jacket of mine from a media work room — but we might as well blame whatever crimes were committed here on Ryan Lochte.
6. Rooms with views: The city is beautiful. Copabana Beach, Ipanema Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer … you could enjoy a vacation here.
7. USA excels: The U.S. Olympic Committee can be proud of American performances. The U.S. dominated in the overall and gold medal counts, and the U.S. gymnasts in particular proved to be stunning and likable athletes.
8. Good PR: USA Basketball has not only become the world’s best program, it has encouraged its athletes to be global ambassadors during the games. International superstars such as Carmelo Anthony and Maya Moore are more accessible and friendly than many of the anonymous athletes who compete in the Games.
For example, rugby returned to the Olympics after 92 years and is desperately trying to gain a foothold in the U.S., and the U.S. coach didn’t speak after the loss to Fiji, and USA Rugby public relations people turned down interview requests for athletes who were more than happy to talk about their journeys and thrilled to see their sport receive coverage.
Think about that: In Rio it was easier to talk to Mike Krzyzewski than Mike Friday.
9. Brazilian hospitality: Unless you decided to vandalize their gas stations, the Brazilians I encountered were uniformly pleasant and helpful. Nobody seems to be in much of a rush here. South America resembles the American South.
10. The athletes were routinely stunning: To see Simone Biles fly, or Usain Bolt turn the corner in the 200 is to see the otherwise unimaginable.
My favorite behind-the-scenes moment: Aly Raisman, the world’s second-best gymnast, talking after the U.S. won the gold for team performance, as asked about trying to win the all-around gold.
“We all have the goal of being the best,” she said. “But Simone is the best.’’