Olympics Conclude With Its Own Comeback Story

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The 2010 Winter Games began in tragedy, but taken in their totality, can they be considered a success? Host Scott Simon talks with sports writer Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine, who has been in Vancouver covering the Olympics.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon. Time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: The ecstasy of victory, the agony of defeat, the onslaught of beer ads, all comes to an end tomorrow with the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine has been in Vancouver covering the Games. Howard, thanks for being with us.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (ESPN): Scott, only for you would I be awake.

SIMON: Oh my gosh, its so early there. You know, I was coming to the studio here early this morning and I slipped on the ice outside and Apolo Ohno just blew past me.

Mr. BRYANT: And disqualified.

SIMON: He tapped me out - and was disqualified, as a matter of fact.

Mr. BRYANT: Did he knock over the rest of his competition on the way to the silver?

SIMON: It was amazing, like ten-pins. The people in front of him, race after race, would just fall, but it only in the last race...

Mr. BRYANT: Well, thats...

SIMON: ...was disqualified.

Mr. BRYANT: ...short track speeds getting for you. This has been an amazing, amazing Games. I dont know exactly what youre getting to see back there Stateside because NBC hasnt seemed to put everything live, but...

SIMON: Were seeing the stuff from Wednesday now.

Mr. BRYANT: Youre probably going to see the gold medal game about a week from Thursday, but its really been an amazing Games, especially for the United States. Youve got sports, Nordic combined here winning gold and silver. You're seeing, obviously, if the U.S. bobsled team comes through, theyre going to win more medals in this Olympics than ever before, theyll get to 35. And its really been a somber Games, you have a Games that began with a young mans death on the luge and track hours before opening ceremonies and then at the same time you have this amazing Olympic spirit that goes at the in a parallel - its kind of its a very interesting thing because I think that the worst part of it was that you have this feeling that the Games were going to be just a very, very sad two weeks.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: And then at the exact same time, the spirit somehow comes through in a lot of these young athletes. And its been a great experience.

SIMON: And it you know, something just - so much concentration on the U.S. and Canadian medal count. Germans are good, arent they?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, the Germans are always good, and thats one of the things that I was extremely disappointed about what the IOC, when the Canadian women won the gold medal in hockey the other day and they beat the Americans and the Americans and the Canadians are by far dominant in womens hockey. And Jacques Rogge comes out and says if Canadian if womens hockey isnt more competitive, theyre going to pretty much end it in the Games. And Im thinking to myself: does anybody win in the luge other than Germans?

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: Or basketball in the Summer Games.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BRYANT: I kind of thought that they were picking on womens hockey, give it some time, be a little bit more patient.

SIMON: In the age of Twitter, Facebook, mobile phones, does NBC or any broadcaster just have to come up with a different way of presenting the Games?

Mr. BRYANT: I think its time I dont know exactly what the formula is, and but this is not 1988 anymore. You cant take the Games and try to stagger them to prime-time audiences only. I think that youve got people I mean, people watch baseball games on their computer at work these days. And so I think that to have your if you get all your information by Twitter or Facebook, knowing the results....

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: ...knowing the events, knowing whats happening, youve got to be able to just say, look, the Games are strong enough to be presented on their own live, people are going to watch, theyre going to find their way to watch, and what youre going to do in 2014 when the Games are in Sochi, Russia, or in 2012...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: ...when they are in London in the Summer Games? Its time to just let the Games survive on their own. I just dont think you can stagger them anymore.

SIMON: Five seconds. Im going to say tomorrow U.S., five; Canada, three.

Mr. BRYANT: Back to back defeats of the Canadians in a hockey tournament, never happened, but I like it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Okay. Howard Bryant, thanks so much.

Mr. BRYANT: Ill see you, Scott.

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