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The IOC clearly hopes whatever Brazil invests now will pay off in 2016.

“We need gold medals up front,” Rogge said. “That is so important for the mood of the public, of the general atmosphere of the games.”

Michael Phelps ended his Olympic career in London with a record 22 medals, the last six of them won here, the most of any athlete in London, as his amazing run ended with — what else? — a splash. Four other athletes in London won five medals, three of them American swimmers, including 17-year-old Missy Franklin.

“We’re Americans and we’re human,” said Teresa Edwards, the USOC’s chef de mission for London. “When I was competing, when I went up against another country, I felt they wanted the same thing I wanted. But we were given an opportunity to prove it at that moment, and that’s what these games give us.”

Swimming and track combined to deliver 60 medals for the U.S., and to the athletes, the medal count most definitely mattered.

“I do feel it’s important for us to be the No. 1 team because we’ve held that title and to lose that title would be somewhat disappointing,” said U.S. women’s 4x400-meter relay gold medalist Dee Dee Trotter. “We just want to maintain the level of talent and the level of medals we always bring home, and if we fall short of that would mean we’re not bringing our ‘A’ game. So, yes, absolutely important for us.”

Blackmun said the medals are just a part of what he’ll remember about London.

Sure, there were the stars — Phelps, the fastest-man-ever from Jamaica Usain Bolt, British cyclist Chris Hoy — but there also were those who just missed, like triathlete Sarah Groff and modern pentathlete Margaux Isaksen, both fourth-place finishers.

“They fell just short but inspired us with their determination,” Blackmun said. “Just as importantly, all of our athletes were good ambassadors, and we have no doubt that they left a positive impression both in London and with the hundreds of millions of Americans who were watching back home.”