U.S. women's basketball team favored in final

Published: Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 - 8:28 am

LONDON – It looks like a mismatch of Olympic-size proportion.

The dominant U.S. women's basketball team, which has won 40 straight Olympic games, seeks its fifth consecutive gold medal today against upstart France, which has never won a medal in women's hoops.

"They're a team nobody really talked about heading into the tournament, but personally I knew that was going to be a team we might have to face," said U.S. point guard Sue Bird.

France is undefeated in the tournament along with the United States, although the Americans have beaten teams by 34 points a game, France just eight.

Nonetheless, Bird said a win won't be automatic.

"I've played with all their girls and know how talented they are," she said.

Anything less than gold for the Americans would be considered a monumental failure.

Men's soccer – Brazil hasn't been this close to the gold medal in men's soccer since Romario was a promising young star in the late 1980s.

Many great players have tried and failed after him, including Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

Now it will be up to Neymar, the future of Brazilian soccer, to end decades of frustration and give the nation its first Olympic gold, the only trophy missing for the five-time World Cup champions.

Brazil is the favorite in today's final at Wembley Stadium against Mexico, which also will be looking for its first Olympic gold.

Men's freestyle wrestling – A year ago, Jordan Burroughs changed his Twitter handle to (at)alliseeisgold.

On Thursday, Burroughs promised to tweet a picture of himself holding the Olympic gold medal. He delivered on Friday night – on the mat and on Twitter.

The boastful 24-year-old American backed up all his talk, beating Iran's Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi 1-0, 1-0 in the men's freestyle 74-kilogram division to give the United States its first wrestling gold medal at the London Games.

Ratings – NBC's coverage of the London Olympics has blown away the most optimistic projections for audience performance in an increasingly fractured media landscape.

More than 210 million Americans have watched a portion of the Games. The network attracted an average of about 32 million viewers a night in prime time – though the time difference with London meant NBC was showing highlights from events that occurred long before the telecast.

NBC's ratings are on track to outdistance numbers from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which many TV industry executives had figured would be a high-water mark.

The last Summer Olympics to consistently attract such large crowds were the Montreal Games in 1976 – long before cable TV networks began splintering the audience.

The London Games will rank in the top five TV events of all time for several reasons, said Alan Wurtzel, president of research for parent company NBCUniversal. More people have smartphones and tablets that can stream video. More people are using social media. And more are staying closer to home to save money because of the sluggish economy.

In addition, viewers have been craving uplifting fare after a stream of bad news, including the drought and mass shootings.

Doping – Just days before the eight-year deadline expires, the International Olympic Committee strip- ped American cyclist Tyler Hamilton of his 2004 gold for doping and awarded the medal to Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, who becomes a three-time Olympic champion.

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