My Closing Ceremonies
Just one night left, but before we're forced to start paying attention to the real world again, there's still time for "Playback's" medals for the 2008 Games:
Biggest Winners (Organization or Nation):
Gold: China. Host country wins much-desired respect for standard-setting Games. Spectacular venues, spirited competition, minimal glitches. Protests and demonstrations kept out of sight, mind. Even the pollution cooperated. Plus, Chinese athletes win gold-medal tally. Wonders of state-planned, authoritarian system should prompt International Olympic Committee to consider North Korea for 2024 Games.
Silver: NBC. Glossy, super-sanitized presentation draws big ratings and online traffic. Even in tight economy, advertisers cough up more than $1 billion for Olympic ads, re-assuring bean counters at NBC parent General Electric Co. Downside: Viewers probably still won't watch NBC's fall shows.
Bronze: Great Britain. Arse-kicking performance by former Olympic weakling comes just in time for 2012 Games in London.
Biggest Losers (Organization or Nation):
Gold: NBC News. NBC turns news division into Olympic promo machine.
Silver: Germany. Former Olympic powerhouse fades further in Beijing.
Bronze (tie): Doping cynics, 2012 London Olympic Organizing Committee. Just a handful of positive tests in Beijing. Evidence that IOC has cleaned up the Games, or of harder-to-detect drugs?... British organizers have tall order if they hope to top 2008 Games.
Biggest Winners (People):
Gold: Michael Phelps. Duh.
Silver: Usain Bolt. Ditto.
Bronze: Jacques Rogge. Arrogant, elitist IOC chairman, nevertheless riding high after China's coup.
Phrases I'll Be Glad Never to Hear Again:
Gold: "The hopes of 1.3 billion people are riding on him/her/this team."
Silver: "Her Olympic dream...."
Bronze: "His Olympic journey..."
Best TV Analyst/Commentator:
Gold: Bela Karoly, gymnastics. Excitable, opinionated, possibly insane. He lit up the screen when he was on.
Silver: Ato Bolden, track. Added insight and excitement to already exciting sprint events.
Bronze: Karch Kiraly, beach volleyball. Knows his stuff and tells it well. Wisely refused to buy into NBC's relentless hype for Walsh-May duo.
Gold: Tim Daggett, gymnastics. Over-exposed and over-caffeinated. Added little to viewers' understanding, and did so in over-the-top fashion.
Silver: Cynthia Potter, diving. Snippy and jingoistic. Bought into NBC's overselling of Laura Wilkinson.
Bronze: Carol Lewis, track. We hear you, Carol. Stop yelling.
Best Ad Series:
Gold: General Electric Co. "Ecoimagination" series features a fire-breathing Chinese dragon, birds lined up to take off at the beach, and a mini-romantic comedy starring an injury-prone young man and his gorgeous object of devotion, a Chinese doctor.
Silver: United Airlines. Wildly colorful and imaginative animations set to beautiful orchestrations. Not sure it makes me want to fly Generic Airlines, but it sure was a sensual feast.
Bronze: No qualifiers.
Gold: McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Sandwich. Fake Olympians (gymnast, boxer, runner, etc.) extol fried thing as if it were a gold medal ("I've been dreaming about it since I was a kid."). Trite and tiresome.
Silver: Visa, Michael Phelps. Slo-mo close-ups of the mighty Phelps in action shot in Visa campaign's signature gold tinting. Makes Phelps look as if he's swimming in a pool of urine.
Bronze: Home Depot, Athletes. Yes, athletes have to struggle to pay their bills (just like everyone). And, yes, it's great that Home Depot helps out by employing some American athletes. But bragging that 400-meter runner Mary Wineberg works in the garden department or marathoner Brian Sell is in lighting says what exactly? Thanks for spoiling the glamour and glory, HD, and reminding us about the 9-to-5 banalities.
Sports That Deserve Primetime Next Time:
Gold: Men's basketball. Ripping gold medal game between U.S. "Redeem Team" and Spain airs at 2:30 am EST.
Silver: Mountain biking. Grueling, brutal, aggressive. More spills than "Death Race."
Bronze: Softball. Oh, wait....
Sports That Should Be Banned from Primetime Next Time:
Gold: Synchronized diving.
Bronze: Any other kind of diving (exception: cliff).
Worst Sportsmanship Award:
Gold: Taekwondo competitor Angel Matos of Cuba deliberately kicked a referee in the face after he was disqualified for taking too much time because of an injury. Then Matos was really disqualified: He may get a lifetime ban from his sport.
Bronze (tie): Matos and wrestler Ara Abrahamian of Sweden. Abrahamian whipped off his bronze medal immediately after receiving it and dropped it in the ring as a protest over "corrupt" judging. He was disqualified and kicked out of the Olympics.
August 24, 2008; 5:21 PM ET
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