DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott. The Winter Olympics are over. Tonight's closing ceremony in Turin, Italy, used an Italian carnival theme, with actual circus performers, and the show featured clowns wearing the outfits from the classic Fellini film, The Clowns.
For the audience participation part of the program, spectators were given red noses. No word on how many people actually put them on, or whether Bode Miller needed one at all. The event brought to a close 16 days of winter sports competition, and all the attendant drama and controversy. Joining us to talk about it all from Turin is NPR's Tom Goldman. Hi there, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN reporting:
ELLIOTT: You still wearing your red nose?
(Soundbite of laughter)
GOLDMAN: I have put my red nose aside especially to talk to you.
ELLIOTT: So, this was your last day of watching competition. Did you see anything interesting?
GOLDMAN: I did, and this was kind of a payback day for me. In 2002, at the Salt Lake City Olympics, I desperately wanted to go to the men's 50-kilometer cross-country race. It's the marathon of cross-country racing, and, of course, we had three positive doping tests on the last day in Salt Lake City, so I had to sit and do stories on that all day.
So, this was payback. I got out into the mountains. It was really wonderful. There was a rousing Italian victory. What a way to end these Olympics. Thirty-three year old Giorgio di Centa, a father of three, won the race, and it was just totally intense. Everyone was waving their red, white, and green Italian flags. It was a great moment.
ELLIOTT: Now, you mentioned how doping has sometimes become front and center at these Games, but this time around, it seemed like there were a few problems, but not as many as we've seen in the past.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's a really good point. I mean, people who have followed the Olympics over the last week, certainly know about the so-called Austrian doping scandal. The Austrian cross-country team and the Biathlon team, police raided their living quarters about a week ago, because a controversial former coach, Austrian coach, it was reported that he was at their living quarters, and he was involved in a doping scandal back in the 2002 Olympics.
And so the IOC, International Olympic Committee, conducted drug tests on 10 athletes. Those, by the way, it was announced, came back negative. That has commanded a lot of attention, but as you say, underneath that scandal, there's been only one positive test.
ELLIOTT: I guess we can't have a conversation about the Olympics without talking about Bode Miller. He was everywhere before the Games started. There were really high hopes for American skiers, including him. But they didn't really rise to the occasion, did they?
GOLDMAN: What's interesting, yeah, the five medals, obviously, he didn't win any medals, and that's a disappointment for a lot of people, but what I'm hearing a lot of is that people are talking about the effort he put in, or what they say, that he didn't put in. An interesting quote I want to read you from Bob Costas, who anchored the NBC coverage from Turin.
He said, "Miller has set him up for much of this. He claims to distain attention, commercialism, and hype, and Miller will now find out, no matter how he looks at it, if you don't care enough to consistently give your best, and at least sometimes do your best, then pretty soon nobody else will care, either." And that's the quote from Bob Costas.
I personally think that maybe it just comes down to this: Bode Miller is a fast and reckless skier. It's the kind of style that's hit or miss. Last year, he hit, wining the 2005 overall World Cup championship. At these Olympics, he missed, and you can't miss at the Olympics, because they're the best skiers in the world, they're consistent, and you have to put in your best effort and your best races.
ELLIOTT: Let's talk a little bit now about the inspiring, and the less than inspiring moments from these games. I really enjoyed watching Apolo Anton Ohno skate, not to mention that I think he has the very best Olympic name since maybe Cassius Clay.
(Soundbite of laughter)
ELLIOT: Who inspired you? Who did you love to watch?
GOLDMAN: And I should add, the coolest little billy-goat beard, too, Apolo Ohno.
ELLIOTT: I know.
GOLDMAN: You know, for me, Debbie, I mean, there's so many great athletic performances and everything, but I'm sorry. Right off the bat, Joey Cheek, the U.S. long track speed skater, just kind of blew everyone away; not only by winning a gold medal, but after he won his gold medal, by donating the $25,000 he won from the U.S.O.C. to relief aid in Africa, and it was an amazing, selfless moment. For me, it ruined, I mean, I say this tongue-in-cheek, but it kind of ruined the rest of the games, because what athlete could live up to that standard, really?
ELLIOTT: NPR's Tom Goldman, this was what, your seventh Olympic games?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, I'm losing track.
ELLIOTT: Tom Goldman in Turin. Thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Debbie.