SI's Daily Olympic Briefing: Aug. 12
Team USA looks to beat Spain in the men's final for the second straight Olympics
Kenya's Abel Kirui competes in the men's marathon and eyes the Olympic record
Men's finals: Brazil takes on Russia in volleyball; Italy battles Croatia in water polo
LONDON -- The Olympics did not dominate London: London dominated the Olympics. From the inspired placement of the venues, drawing on the capital's matchless architectural heritage and sporting infrastructure, to the raucous crowds who packed out every stadium, this was an event that was about the people, not the VIPs. In retrospect, this should not have surprised us. It is no accident that London is the only city to have hosted the Olympics three times, nor that Britain is the only country to have won at least one gold at every summer Games (even if one gold was all that we sometimes received). This country has always had an exemplary passion for sport. Indeed, it is fair to say that there would not be an Olympics without Britain -- or, at least, that it would be a different and considerably diminished beast.
So read the main editorial Saturday in The Daily Telegraph, a proclamation, albeit biased, that the Games had delivered on its promise. The Olympics end tonight with the closing ceremonies (the stadium opens at 2:30 p.m.; the program is expected to begin at 4:00 p.m.) and reflection will be one of the narratives of the day. But the final Sunday of the Games always produces memorable sporting moments, and of major interest Stateside is the men's basketball gold medal final between the U.S. and Spain. Medals will also be handed out in boxing, cycling mountain bike, handball, rhythmic gymnastics, the men's marathon, modern pentathlon, volleyball, water polo and wrestling.
The United States approaches Olympic basketball with a gold-or-bust attitude and the Americans have won five of the last six Olympic gold medals. Four years ago, Team USA defeated Spain 118-107 to win the gold in Beijing. It will likely be the same here: The U.S. has never lost to Spain in 10 Olympic basketball games. (10 a.m.)
In his preview of the final, SI.com's Ian Thomsen advises viewers to focus on the play inside the paint. "The most interesting matchup of the final will be the size of Spain upfront (the Gasol brothers are both 7-footers) against the athleticism of the American forwards," writes Thomsen. "U.S coach Mike Krzyzewski said he has no plans to give extra minutes to 7-1 Tyson Chandler and 6-10 Kevin Love; nor does he expect Spain to go small...If the game is tight into the final minutes, then Spain will surely have a difficult time dealing with LeBron James, who in these Olympics has been building on the gains he earned during his run to the NBA championship in June. He has been the dominant player of the tournament at both ends of the court, whether guarding out to the three-point line or under the basket; whether organizing his team as point guard or attacking the basket as the world's most dangerous finisher."
Russia and Australia will play in the bronze medal game (6 a.m.).
The runners to watch in the men's marathon (6 a.m.) are Kenya's Wilson Kipsang and Abel Kirui and Ethiopia's Ayele Abshero. Kirui won this year's London Marathon and has said he thinks he can break the Olympic record of two hours, six minutes and 32 seconds set by the late Sammy Wanjiru in Beijing four years ago. The Americans in the race are Abdi Abdirahman, Ryan Hall, and Meb Keflezighi. The race starts and finishes in the Mall near Buckingham Palace.
Men's boxing will award five medals today in the following weight divisions: flyweight (8:30 a.m.), lightweight (8:45 a.m.), welterweight (9:15 a.m.), light heavyweight (9:45 a.m.) and men's super heavyweight (10:15 a.m.).
The women's combined modern pentathlon concludes at 1 p.m. with Margaux Isaksen and Suzanne Stettinius competing for the USA. SI's pick for gold is Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania. Mahairi Spence has a big chance for Great Britain, as well.
World champion Brazil plays Russia for the gold medal in the men's volleyball final (8 a.m.) at Earls Court. The teams played in the preliminary round with the Brazilians sweeping the Russians in three games. Bulgaria plays Italy in the bronze medal match (4:30 a.m.).
The men's gold medal match (10:50 a.m.) in water polo between Italy and Croatia offers great theater. World champion Italy defeated Croatia in the semifinals of the 2011 world championships, but Croatia beat the Italians (11-6) in group play in London. The Italians have won three Olympic golds in men's water polo while Croatia's best result was a silver at Atlanta in 1996. Serbia-Montenegro play for the bronze medal at 9:30 a.m.
The men's freestyle wrestling finals for 66kg (145 pounds) and 96kg (211 pounds) will be held and SI's picks are a pair of Iranians: Mehdi Taghavi Kermani in the 66kg and Reza Yazdani in the 96kg. Jake Varner of the U.S. is a medal threat in the 96kg event. (Jared Frayer will wrestle in the 66kg.) The competition starts at 3:30 a.m.
Gold gets awarded in BMX's men's cross-country (8:30 a.m.). Australia's Sam Willoughby is SI's pick for gold.
Defending Olympic champion France faces Sweden in the men's gold medal match in handball (10 a.m.). The bronze medal match will be contested by Hungary-Croatia (6 a.m.).
Russia, Italy and Belarus are the favorites in today's rhythmic gymnastics all-around (9:16 a.m.)
Thanks for the reading the briefing. Perhaps we'll see you again in Sochi.
"You know, a lot of people joke and laugh about the sport and the event. My reaction to that is to say, 'go out and try it for yourself. It is a really grueling event. It's very, very hard and you have to work hard at it. Your body is in a lot of pain just starting the race." -- U.S. racewalker John Nunn
80,000: Tweets per minute about Usain Bolt immediately after his victory in the 200, a Twitter record for the Olympics
13,000: Amount, in pounds, that a collector paid for an Olympic torch autographed by Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins, the gold-medal-winning cyclist and Tour de France winner.
25: Number of marriage proposals since the Games began at Park Live, the site of the Olympic Park's big screens.
1. Jordan, Pele, Ali? Bolt Is Up With Greatest, By Paul Heyward, The Daily Telegraph. An interview with the sprint king.
2. The View From Delhi, Helen Pidd, The Guardian. India feels frustration of a great nation with such small returns at the Olympics.
3. Am I Gay? It's At The Stage I Just Say 'Whatever.' By Harry Wallop, The Daily Telegraph. A profile of the Australia swimming legend Ian Thorpe, whose work on the BBC has drawn praise from British TV critics
4. What Britain Has Done For The Olympics, The Daily Telegraph. The Olympics did not dominate London; London dominated the Olympics.
5. All Hail The New Olympic Heroines, Changing The Face of Sport For Ever, By Zoe Williams, The Guardian. What will be the legacy of the great British women athletes of these Games?