LONDON -- Museums are all over this city. At the British Museum, you can see the Rosetta stone. At the British Library, you can see the Magna Carta. There are war museums, art museums, science museums, a Shakespeare museum, a fashion museum and even a museum honoring the London docks.
It is inevitable, then, that London will soon erect a museum to the 2012 Olympic Games, the ones that concluded so smashingly here Sunday night. And so, preparing to evacuate for home, I made a list of items that will surely be enshrined in such a museum:
MICHAEL PHELPS' IPOD HEADPHONES: The biggest star of the Games' first week and the most prolific medal winner in Olympic history, Phelps always took his music to the pool deck with him before each race here, crediting it with keeping him focused. He has owned up to having Lil Wayne and Usher on the playlist. Whatever he listened to, it worked. Phelps rallied from a bitter first-day Olympic defeat to rival Ryan Lochte and emerged triumphant with four gold medals to give him a remarkable 22 for his career. You know what this means: All across America, consultants will urge office managers to boost production by blasting Outkast and Usher to workers throughout the day.
USAIN BOLT'S RELAY BATON: That is, if you can pry it away from him. After he won his third gold medal here Saturday as anchorman on the 4x100 relay, officials said they needed to retrieve the baton under Olympic rules or else the Jamaican team would be disqualified. Bolt wanted the baton as a keepsake. He eventually won the argument. As well he should. For all of Phelps' achievements, Bolt was the No. 1 star of these Games. He and his goofy personality captivated London these past two weeks. The entire Olympics -- every athlete, volunteer and fan -- stopped whenever Bolt was on the starting line. It wasn't that way with any other athlete.
GABBY DOUGLAS' HAIR CLIPS: Female athletes were the big story of these Games, and they had to deal with some amazingly silly stuff. For instance, after Douglas helped the U.S. gymnastics team win gold and won another as the best all-around woman competitor, the big buzz on social media was about, yes, her hair. African-American women in particular seemed to be fascinated by her choice to have chemically processed locks that reacted to her physical exertion by ... heck, I don't know. I'm no follicle expert. But the online murmurs actually caused Douglas to address the issue, saying: "There's no bathroom, and we rotate from event to event. So there's no time for them to say, 'Representing the USA, Gabrielle Douglas' and for me to say, 'Yeah, thanks,' as I'm brushing my hair. It's like, come on." All I know is, Phelps had even worse hair, and no one bugged him. So even though these were known as the 'Women's Games,' female athletes still have more to confront than their male counterparts. Maybe in another four years.
A SECURITY GUARD OUTFIT: Remember all those concerns about safety at these Games? And how London was scrambling at the last minute to come up with enough security personnel to cover all its bases when a private contractor came up 4,000 people short? Well, London, let me say: That was some jolly good scrambling. British soldiers called up to fill in the breach were good-spirited and professional in the job they did at screening lines for those entering venues. And the only real casualty of note was a collision between a bicyclist and double-decker bus ferrying Games passengers just outside the Olympic Park gates. Tragically, the bicyclist died. But the dire predictions of potential terror never materialized, and no bombs went off. That's my first basic standard for a triumphant Games.
CHINESE SHUTTLECOCKS: I guess you can also call it a very successful Olympics when the biggest controversy turns out to be a badminton scandal. It involved women's teams purposely losing in the round-robin pool to gain a better spot in the elimination bracket. The result was four teams, two from China, being tossed from the tournament. As scandals go, it's not quite the same as your 100-meter dash winner being tossed out for drug use. But it rocked the badminton community the same as the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal rocked baseball. That one was made into a movie called "Eight Men Out." Filmmakers are reportedly at work on a screenplay for this one called: "Racket Squad Down."
THE NORTH KOREAN FLAG: In other words, the one that was supposed to be displayed before a soccer game involving that country's team. Instead, some dim bulbs at the stadium used the South Korean flag instead. In international terms, this was the equivalent of tattooing a Raider logo on Joe Montana's forehead. The North Korean squad left the field in protest but eventually returned and all was well. Funny how it is never the athletes who create international incidents. It's almost always the officials and coaches.
THE TWITTER LOGO: Every night, millions whined about NBC and angrily fantasized about shaving Bob Costas' head bald. All of which led to ... nothing. (Had to use fewer than 140 characters for this item.)
LONDON MAYOR BORIS JOHNSON'S SNAPPY HAPPY SUIT: Don't know how much coverage he received in the U.S., but the mayor was a fierce presence during the Games, cheerleading for his city and assuring all would be well and the Olympics would be an exciting time. And know what? He was right. At the beginning, the Brits were fairly reserved and reservedly skeptical about the whole Olympic deal. But as the days passed -- and especially as the British athletes kept doing well enough to win the third-most gold medals in the Games -- the enthusiasm mounted. It was fun to ride the tube and watch families and yobs alike get all worked up over the Union Jack and their country's competitors. They were usually gracious to foreign athletes, too. Well, except for that guy in the stands who threw an empty plastic bottle on the track behind Bolt before the 100-meter race. The idiot was then roughed up by a nearby judo competitor before being hauled off. Hey, we may have a new Olympic event: The Bottle Thrower Beater!
THE VOLUNTEERS' SMILES: It's impossible to describe how massive a project the Olympic Games are to stage until you attend them. The best description probably is the one about hosting 10 Super Bowls a day for 17 straight days. These were the 12th Games I've covered. Nothing will match the 1992 Barcelona Games for graceful integration of venues into a city, but London did as good a job as any of the rest. The Olympic Park revitalized a decrepit area of East London. And the trains ran on time. But the heartbeat of every Games is the way volunteers perform their duties -- greeting visitors around town and directing them wherever. The volunteers here represented the diverse population of the city and were bang-up awesome in that job. Cynics attack the Olympics as a phony exercise of nationalistic goo. They usually don't put their boots on the ground and attend one. Without getting too mushy, my take-away is always that, at heart, people want to get along and respect each other's cultures while seeing the world's best athletes do awesome stuff. London made that happen again. Cheerio to all responsible. Well done.
Contact Mark Purdy at email@example.com or 408-920-5092.