LITTLE ROCK — Measuring appeal, seven minutes-plus was dead even with 19.32 and 9.63 seconds in the Olympics.
For somebody of a certain age, Paul McCartney’s enthusiastic rendition of “Hey Jude,” the all-time favorite of rock ‘n roll disc jockeys needing a bathroom break, set a very high bar for the 17-day-long gathering of athletes.
Only Usain Bolt, fast and charismatic to boot, reached that plateau. Bolt’s 100 was a perfect 10, equaled only by his 200. Knowing the results, I watched anyway. By the same token, I knew the “Hey Jude” refrain and listened to every “Na na na, na-na na na.”
For the 100, the four fastest men of all time were on the track. Rarely does a much-ballyhooed event live up to the type. This race did. It was so fast that former Razorback Tyson Gay finished fourth in 9.80, the fastest time ever for a non-medal winner.
Loose until the moment of truth, Bolt surprised and delighted his starting block attendant with a fist bump, smoked the field in the 200, and threw in five post-race push ups for fun. Before anchoring Jamaica to a world record in the 4 x 100 relay, Bolt made a basketball move and hit an imaginary jumper — swish, no doubt — while navigating a tunnel to the track.
Watching regularly, other memorable snapshots from the shindig:
MOST INSPIRING — Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, a double amputee, competing with able-bodied men in the 400 meters.
BAD EXAMPLE — We were told that U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney’s worst vault would be worthy of gold. Apparently, she had to remain upright to cash in. Her scowl and lack of sportsmanship toward gold medal winner Sandra Raluca Izbasa was mentioned by three young ladies at lunch the following day.
OLYMPIC SPIRIT — The roar for Nigerian rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka, nicknamed the “sculling sloth” because of his slow performances. Sporting a big smile, the 35-year-old with three months of rowing experience finished 80 seconds behind the winner in a competition to determine minor placings.
FAMILIAR FOLK — Speed figure guru and premier public handicapper of thoroughbreds, Arkansas’ Randy Moss did commentary on the hard-to-watch synchronized swimming. Did his speed figures show the Russian team to be a lock?
SPORTSMANSHIP EPITOMIZED — After a preliminary heat in the 400 meters, Kirani James of Grenada initiated the trading of name tags with Pistorius. Later, James won his country’s first medal, a gold.
WORKING THE SYSTEM — Commentators said Brazil’s Arthur Zanetti watered down his early routine so he would go last in the rings and that it was common knowledge that scores go up as the competition progresses. He won gold in an upset.
RAW EMOTION —: The Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez, sobbing on the medal stand, a picture of him and his grandmother pinned inside his uniform. He won the 400 meter hurdles in 2004, but she died during the 2008 Olympics and he failed to reach the finals.
FRUSTRATION — American Morgan Uceny on her knees, pounding the track with both hands after she fell at the start of the final lap of the 1500 meters. Something similar happened to her at the 2011 World Championships.
— Would South African’s 4 x 400 relay have been awarded a spot in the finals if Pistorius had not been running the anchor leg? The team was way back when its runner was knocked down in the prelims.
— Would British diver Tom Daley have won a do-over if the Olympics had not been in London? The winning argument was that camera flashes distracted him.
— Did all competitors in track and field agree to wear their country’s flag as a backdrop for pictures if they won a medal? Spontaneous, it was not.
— The courage and fortitude of the Brits is admired and appreciated, but NBC overdid it Saturday with a history lesson of almost an hour.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.