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The Torch Is Out: Olympic Moments Will Burn On

It's time to extinguish The Torch, and end NPR's three-week marathon of Olympic coverage. From the London Games' opening ceremony through 302 medal events, these Summer Olympics have fed fans a rich diet of history and spectacle. I only wish I'd been able to eat it all — but part of the Olympics' allure is that its smorgasbord is over-stuffed with intense competition.

But the buffet is now closed. If you need proof, just look at the articles coming out about how Rio de Janeiro is already feeling pressure as the next host city of the Summer Games, in 2016.

The next Olympics will be the Winter Games held at Sochi, Russia, in 2014. Preparations for the Winter Olympics don't get as much attention as the Summer Games, because most people think that all that really has to happen is for it to snow. (I kid, Sochi; I kid.)

As for London's Olympic Stadium, it will soon host the Paralympic Games, which run from Wednesday, Aug. 29, to Sunday, Sept. 9. A record 2.1 million tickets to the games have been sold. And in a move that many of our readers will appreciate, all Paralympic events will be streamed live online. It also has its own YouTube channel.

The Paralympics will feature South African runner Oscar Pistorius — and many other great athletes, like Spanish cyclist "Junajo" Mendez, who is a racer to be reckoned with, despite missing an arm and most of a leg. They're among the more than 4,000 athletes who'll be competing in London.

I wish we could keep the blog going all the way to the Paralympics, and to Sochi, and then beyond, to Rio. That's how much I've enjoyed this assignment, and the discussions that have come out of it. Thank you for your thoughtful comments and emails — and for your patience with the typos and slips that can come with covering live events.

We all have our favorite moments of these Olympics, whether it was record-setting performances by legends like Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, or surprises like U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva's bronze win.

What I'll remember fondly is the athletes' attitude toward competing, and the excitement they felt just to be in London.

And that's something that doesn't seem to go away. Take Friday's interview from All Things Considered, when co-host Melissa Block spoke to former Olympians Kate MacKenzie (rowing, Athens 2004) and Derek Brown (handball, Atlanta 1996).

Neither MacKenzie nor Brown won a medal — which is too bad, because they say it's always the first thing people ask when they realize they're talking to a former Olympian. And Brown admits that he gets emotional when he sees an American athlete get to the podium's top step.

"But, even now, when I'm watching, I stand in my position. I tear," he said. "I tear every time the anthem's played, because I know what those athletes dedicated themselves to get to that point."

"And it's like, making the Olympics isn't a consolation prize," MacKenzie said a bit later. "It's actually a really big deal. And I want people to understand. You know, like, yeah — we all want the medal. Goodness, you know we do."

"But, sometimes, you just have to remind people that - hey, you know, it's not about the medal, like Derek said. It's about the experience, and wearing the colors, and representing the United States as best you can with your performance and just being proud to be an American."

"That's right," Brown said. "That's right."

We've enjoyed the Olympic experience here at NPR. It's been a fun trip — thank you for making it with us.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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