1. CROWNING THE GREATEST OLYMPIC ATHLETE OF ALL TIME
Michael Phelps ended his remarkable swimming career by winning four gold and two silver medals in London. He is now the most decorated Olympian ever, with a career total of 22 medals, 18 of them gold. In his final swim, he helped the U.S. reclaim the lead in the 4x100-meter relay, and afterward he got a special trophy from swimming officials that said: "To Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic athlete of all time."
2. BOLT ADDS TO THE LEGEND
The speed. The medals. The poses. It could only be Usain Bolt, who electrified the London Games by becoming the first man to win the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay golds in back-to-back Olympics. Even IOC President Jacques Rogge, who initially balked at giving him "living legend" status, conceded that the six-time gold medalist "is the best sprinter of all time."
3. GABBY LEADS THE FIERCE FIVE
Gabby Douglas rocked the O2 Arena with her electric floor routine, her vaults, her leaps high above the balance beam. The 16-year-old won two gold medals, including the all-around, and the rest of the Fierce Five -- Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Aly Raisman -- gave the United States its first Olympic team title in women's gymnastics since 1996.
4. BRITAIN'S GOLDEN NIGHT
Three British athletes won gold medals in Olympic Stadium in 44 minutes on Saturday, Aug. 4, to produce the signature night of the London Games: Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon, Greg Rutherford won the long jump, and Mo Farah won the 10,000 meters. (The Somali-born Farah also won the 5,000 meters on the final Saturday.) Counting two golds from the rowers and another from women's track cycling, Britain's total for the day was six.
5. PUTTING THE BAD IN BADMINTON
They played to lose. The top-seeded women's badminton pair from China, two pairs from South Korea and one from Indonesia were disqualified from the Olympics after they intentionally lost their matches in order to secure a more favorable draw in the quarterfinals. Olympic officials wanted team coaches, trainers or officials of the four doubles pairs to be punished if they encouraged or ordered the eight players to lose intentionally.
6. THE "BLADE RUNNER" MADE THEM ROAR
Oscar Pistorius described his journey from South Africa to the London Olympics as "amazing," and it was. The double-amputee known as the "Blade Runner" because he runs on carbon-fiber blades had the 80,000-strong crowd roaring as he anchored the South African team in the 4x400-meter relay final. It didn't matter that he finished eighth. He can add "Olympic finalist" to his long list of unprecedented achievements.
7. WOMEN'S BOXING A HIT
Women's boxing was a big hit in its first Olympics, and it produced three memorable champions: Claressa Shields, the 17-year-old middleweight with the vicious right hand who established herself as the future of the sport; lightweight Katie Taylor of Ireland, the Bray Brawler whose bouts had thousands cheering with Irish pride; and Nicola Adams, the British flyweight who won the first gold medal.
8. RUNNING ON A BROKEN LEG
American Manteo Mitchell heard a pop in his left leg with 200 meters to go in his segment of the 4x400 relay preliminaries, and the sprinter knew it was not good. If he stopped, he would lose the race, so he finished the lap, then limped to the side to watch his teammates complete the relay. The United States eventually made it into the finals and won the silver behind the Bahamas.
9. HISTORIC OLYMPICS FOR WOMEN
It lasted only 82 seconds, but it will be long remembered: Young judo fighter Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani became the first Saudi woman to compete at an Olympics. Wearing a modified hijab, Shahrkhani drew roars from the crowd as she stepped on the mat against Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica, who quickly defeated her. Saudi resident Alaa Al-Mizyen said afterward: "Wojdan remains a winner to me and millions of men AND women around the world." Qatar and Brunei also sent female Olympians for the first time.
10. HER MAJESTY'S A PRETTY NICE ACTRESS
The Olympics kicked off with a royal command performance. At the opening ceremony, a short film on the stadium's big screen showed actor Daniel Craig as James Bond driving to Buckingham Palace and meeting Queen Elizabeth II, who played herself. "Good evening, Mr. Bond," she said. Next they were shown flying in a helicopter over Olympic Stadium, where stunt doubles parachuted in.