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Olympics, one week in: Defining moments aplenty

Saturday - 8/4/2012, 7:14pm  ET

AP National Writer

LONDON (AP) - There has, of course, been triumph _ sideburned British cyclist Bradley Wiggins and powerhouse Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen stand out. And defeat in many forms, from the near miss of American gymnast Jordyn Wieber's first, anguishing appearance to the Saudi judoka wiped from the Olympic landscape in just 82 seconds.

In swimmer Michael Phelps we have seen the already legendary pass milestones anew. In double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius we praise the virtue of unremitting perseverance and _ admit it _ silently count our blessings. In rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka of Niger, who learned his sport just three months ago, we have found an object of pure affection.

We have glimpsed Britain's royalty, complete with credentials around their necks. We have seen celebrity's million-dollar smiles emerging _ Gabby Douglas on the beam, Jessica Ennis on the track, Missy Franklin in the pool _ and watched eight disqualified Asian badminton players melt down in a burst of disruptive scandal.

For a week, anyone following the games has seen all of this in great measure.

So many stories from so many nations: stories that will be told for generations in countries you've never visited and probably never will. Gabby the gymnast, encircled in the maelstrom, marveled at it all: "My name's in the history books," she said. It was not a boast, only simple astonishment.

In sports, it's all about the storyline. We hunger for the epic, scour fields of play for the iconic. And the first week of the 2012 Olympic Games has had plenty of all that.

"It's been that lovely mix of the unexpected, the great names from overseas that have come through and those big British moments," said London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe. He cited the size of the crowds at track and field, which he said made him _ understatedly _ "slightly taken aback."

Those big British moments exploded on the track Saturday night. Ennis cemented her place in Olympic history by finishing the 800 meters well ahead of her opponents and thus taking the heptathlon. She grinned ear to beautiful ear as she took a victory lap, wrapped in the British flag as thousands of her fellow citizens' flashbulbs fired off from Olympic Stadium's thunderous stands. Moments later, Britain cemented its night to remember with a gold from Greg Rutherford in the long jump and another from Mo Farah in the 10,000-meter run.

And surely more big moments await in the same place Sunday night with the marquee performance of the appropriately named Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter and world record-holder who, with world-champion teammate Yohan Blake, is widely expected to zoom straight into Olympic history books in the 100 meters.

A 21st-century Olympics, giant spectacle though it may be, is but one big show among many. In a world of distractions _ and, not incidentally, of tape delays in the United States that begat hand-wringing and Twitter-spoiler annoyance _ can the most elemental expression of human physical achievement still score a seat at the attention-span table?

"Of course times have changed, but the stories are still there," said Teresa Edwards, a former USA basketball player and veteran of five Olympics. "I'm watching the stories unfold, seeing the mission of what the Olympics are all about. These games are great. I wish I was playing. I really do."

Through it all, the Olympic flame still burns brightly. Trouble is, it's hidden from everyone save those who have tickets to events at Olympic Stadium, where it lives encircled and _ to the annoyance of many _ unspottable.

And beyond sports? Let's not forget one of the games' most pivotal performers _ the host city itself, London, one of the planet's most storied, and at this moment in history led by a mayor named Boris who has no problem hogging the spotlight. A huge eastern swath of the city sits bathed in purple and pink and blue, the official colors of these Olympics, which festoon everything from volunteers' shirts to street signs to miles of very cheerful security barricades.

Few logistical snags have materialized, and _ fingers crossed _ there have been no major security breaches. Londoners, though, seem vaguely flabbergasted that a far-flung section of their city generally ignored until now _ a patch once home to giant piles of discarded refrigerators _ has finally taken center stage after years of feverish construction. They're arriving by train in droves, and, thus far, they're proud of both their Olympians and the show their country's putting on.

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