Daily Briefing, Aug. 23
What To Watch
Nothing ends like an Olympics, especially for those on the ground. For 16 days and nights you are in the middle of a never-ending seductive prism. Then it stops, suddenly and spectacularly. Today marks the final day of events in Beijing. Eleven gold medals will be handed out, including a marquee event for Americans: The gold medal game (2:30 a.m. ET) in men's basketball between the U.S. against Spain. "The game won't at all resemble the pool play game with Spain, which the U.S. won in a rout," said Sports Illustrated's Alex Wolff. "Unlike Argentina, which had no depth, Spain almost has too much depth. Their biggest challenge is figuring out rotations. In each of the last two U.S. games, against Australia and Argentina, they've had a lull where they have been inattentive taking care of the ball and taking bad shots early in possessions. In both cases, their opponents put together mini-runs, and Spain is smart and deep and experienced enough to take big advantage of any momentary lapses. That said, [U.S. head coach] Mike Krzyzewski identified the second quarter last night as the worst the U.S. has played in the Olympics. I think that will come in handily as a motivational tool as he tries to get them focused on defense first. And I think the U.S. offense will follow on that."
Additional highlights (all times Eastern):
Kenya's Martin Lel, winner of both the London and New York marathons, is SI's pick for gold in the men's marathon finals (7:30 p.m.). SI's Brian Cazeneuve also likes Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco and Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia to hit the medal stand. Marathon world-record holder Haile Gebrselassie declined to run in Beijing because of his concerns about the polluted air. The Americans entered in the field include Ryan Hall, Brian Sell and Dathan Ritzenhein.
The U.S. is assured of its first men's volleyball medal after a 16-year drought. But what color will it be? The gold medal match (12:00 a.m.) pits the Americans against Brazil, a charged climax to an emotional Games for the U.S. team. The team's coach, Hugh McCutcheon, lost his father-in-law to a knife attack at the Drum Tower in downtown Beijing two weeks ago. The bronze medal match between Russia and Italy will start two hours earlier.
Argentina and Lithuania play for the bronze medal in men's basketball at 12:00 a.m.
Taekwondo will award six medals including the men's light fly, men's bantam, men's light, men's welter, men's light heavy and men's super heavy. The first bout is scheduled for 1:30 a.m. Sunday at Worker's Gymnasium.
The U.S. men play Hungary for the gold medal in water polo at 3:40 a.m. It's the first time the U.S. has advanced to the gold medal game since 1988. The bronze medal game -- Serbia against Montenegro -- will precede that game at 2:20 a.m. The Hungarians are a win away from becoming the first country to win three consecutive water polo gold medals since Great Britain (1908, 1912 and 1920).
France and Iceland will play in the men's team handball final (3:45 a.m.).
Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening ceremonies, is back to perform another high-wire act for the closing ceremonies (They begin at 8:00 a.m. Beijing time but will be shown tape-delayed on NBC at 7:00 p.m. ET). During the ceremony, Beijing officials will handover the Olympic flag to London Mayor Boris Johnson, who represents the host city for the 2012 Games. Michael Phelps is expected to make an appearance from London, though he is not expected to sing.
Clip and Save: The Vancouver Games begin Feb. 12, 2010.
Quote of the Day
"I was surprised at this size right off the top. He was able to handle the ball. I tried to test him a little bit, see if he go left, go right, that sort of thing. So I like him." -- Kobe Bryant, asked by the China Daily about China's 6-foot-9 point guard Sun Yue, a second-round pick of the Lakers in the 2007 draft
What We're Reading Around The Web
1. Heavy Lifting Over, China Is Rolling in Gold (By Christopher Clarey, The New York Times): The Chinese are on pace for the highest gold medal tally for any nation since the Soviet Union won 55 in Seoul in 1988.
2. Should we dread the handover? (By Barney Ronay, The Guardian): David Beckham riding through Beijing on a London bus? Hide the children.
3. This 'Inquiry' Falls Flat (By Sally Jenkins, Washington Post): "Everyone is playing sleuth over whether China cheated in women's gymnastics," says the writer. "The hope is that the officials who govern Olympic competition will conduct a straightforward investigation, but regrettably, such a thing seems to have been beyond their scope and spine at this point. Who are you going to believe, the Chinese government, or the Chinese government? The authorities at the Beijing Games have considered the question, and for the moment have decided to believe the Chinese government."