The London 2012 Olympics drew to a close on Sunday with Russia winning three golds, the United States extending its lead in the gold medal standings by two and a Ugandan scoring an upset victory in the men’s marathon.
Day 16 of the games began under sunny skies with the staging of the men’s marathon through the streets of central London. Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich won the race in a time of 2 hours, eight minutes and one second, beating Kenyan favorite and world champion Abel Kirui by 26 seconds.
Another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang, took the bronze, while Eritrean-born American Meb Keflezighi finished fourth, eight years after claiming the Olympic silver medal in Athens. Kiprotich overtook the two Kenyans 32 kilometers into the race and held the lead to the end, earning Uganda only its second Olympic gold medal.
Russian athletes had the best day, winning Olympic titles in men’s volleyball, men’s boxing and the women’s rhythmic gymnastics group competition.
Team USA also finished strongly, taking gold in men’s freestyle wrestling and men’s basketball. The U.S. National Basketball Association stars held off a strong challenge by Spain to win by 107 points to 100, repeating their victory over the Spaniards in the 2008 Olympic final.
The United States ended the games with 103 medals including 46 golds, staying ahead of runner-up China, whose final tally was 87 medals, 38 of them gold. China had topped the standings four years ago in Beijing with 51 Olympic titles.
Team China chief Liu Peng said the Asian sporting power has much room for improvement.
“We know we are far behind the world in popular team ball games and other events of a high professional level,” said Liu. “Although overall we did well in disciplines in which we traditionally excel, as these events become more popular and commonplace internationally, competitors from other countries and regions are becoming better, and we are facing more severe challenges in these fields.”
Host nation Great Britain was third in the gold-medal table with 29, followed by Russia with 24 and South Korea with 13.
Team GB’s total of 67 medals, including a men’s boxing gold on Sunday, marked the best British Olympic performance in more than a century. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will maintain government funding for Olympic sports until the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro to help British athletes achieve more success.
“I think you only need two words to sum up these games: Britain delivered,” said Cameron. “We showed the world what we’re made of. We reminded ourselves of what we can do, and yes we demonstrated you should never ever count Team GB down and out.”
Cameron appointed London Games organizer Sebastian Coe as Britain’s legacy ambassador for the Olympics. In that role, Coe will advise the government about how to secure long-term economic rewards from hosting the games. London’s target is $20 billion in monetary benefits.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said London has lived up to its promise of hosting an Olympics designed for athletes, calling the athletes’ village “splendid” and the sports venues “state of the art.” He also highlighted some of the record-breaking performances of the games.
“I think of the double/[triple medal winners], [Jamaican sprinter] Usain Bolt of course,” said Rogge. “I think of [American swimmer] Michael Phelps surpassing [Soviet gymnast] Larisa Latynina [as the winner of the most Olympic medals]. I think of [British track cyclist] Chris Hoy and six medals. I think of [British sailor] Ben Ainslie and five medals. [Italian fencing champion Valentina] Vezzali and five consecutive medals. [British tennis player Andy] Murray winning his first major title. And I could go on for the rest of the day.”
Sunday’s other gold medal winners include Cuba, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in men’s boxing, Croatia in men’s water polo, the Czech Republic in men’s mountain bike cross-country, France in men’s handball and Japan in men’s freestyle wrestling.
In the day’s last competition, Lithuania’s Laura Asadauskaite won the women’s modern pentathlon, setting an Olympic record for an event that combines fencing, horse riding, shooting, swimming and running.
The games were concluding Sunday evening with a closing ceremony featuring some of Britain’s best-known pop stars, including the Spice Girls and George Michael. Brazilian performers also were due to take the stage to celebrate London’s hand-over of the summer games to Rio, where the Olympic flame will appear again in four years. VOA