Well, just as the marathon was one of the concluding events of the Olympic Games, we are now bringing our broadcast marathon to a close. Beyond the competitive drama, every Olympics provides a snapshot of a city and a country at a point in time. This one was more compelling than most, since China's rise and its ongoing transformation is the global story, not only of the moment, but likely of the foreseeable future. These Olympics were a milestone in that still unfolding story. And while history will tell us whether or not the Olympics provided China with the confidence to not only build on its considerable strengths, but also to address its considerable problems. This much we know.
This is a country so vast, a people with lives so varied and a history so rich and complex that no visitor can fully grasp it. Still, of these Games, no advanced degree in international relations was required to appreciate the genuine warmth of the Chinese people, the honest pride in their country and how seriously Chinese citizens, famous Olympians, to everyday men and women, took this chance to show themselves to the world.
All Olympics are important to the host city. These Games were monumentally important to the host nation, which happens to be home to 1/5 of humanity. All that said, just as these Olympics were significant politically, they were also very significant competitively. Beijing turned out to be among the most memorable Olympics ever.
One headline was anticipated before the Games began, and then verified here. For the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, an ongoing Olympic rivalry shapes up. In Beijing, the U.S. won 110 medals-the most it's ever won at a non-American Olympics. But China, second in the overall count, easily won the most golds here, and the most by any country since the old Soviet Union in 1988. Many of China's triumphs went beyond excellence. Their perfection and precision, simply beautiful to behold. China is now a sports power with a sophisticated state-supported sports system. They will be at or near the top of the medal list at London and beyond.
Meanwhile, the Americans had plenty to cheer about. Beach volleyball pairs both prevailing, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson winning gold and winning hearts, the men's basketball team doing exactly what they set out to do-winning, yes-but also redeem and redefine the image and purpose of the U.S. program.
These Games reached multiple crescendos. From the beginning, there was Michael Phelps, who now ranks among the very greatest Olympians ever and who is also now in the top tier of the best and most popular contemporary athletes in any sport-unheard of for a swimmer, until Phelps.
Just about the time Phelps left the pool, a Jamaican jet zoomed over the track. The sprints are supposed to be decided by blinks of an eye, not by bolts of speed so astonishing that, like the spectators, the competitors can only marvel at the world's-- and history's-- fastest man. More nations, 204, participated here than in any Games before. And more won medals, 87, than ever before as well.
But beyond the medal podium, the Olympics remain a human panorama, with many also-- ran finishes and first-round eliminations, nonetheless representing epic personal stories, only appreciated by the participants themselves and their families, friends and countrymen.
Theses Games began with Zhang Yimou's stunning Opening Ceremony, so boldly conceived and brilliantly executed, that it set a standard for such occasions unlikely to be equaled. And tonight, with more theatrical touches, the curtain came down. So the people of the world came to Beijing, and the people of China extended their hands. You don't have to speak a word of Mandarin to understand that.
I've been fortunate to be involved with many memorable Olympics, and in many ways, this has been the most memorable. In no small part, due to the efforts of the small army of people who worked tirelessly to bring these Games home to you. For these colleagues, I will always have enormous professional regard and personal gratitude.
The names of these talented men and women accompany this final montage of the images of China and Olympic moments-moments we hope resonate with you as they have with us. Good night, this one last time, from China.