It all began when five terrifying mascots were introduced to the world in November of 2005, and now, with the extinguishing of the Olympic torch, the games of the 29th Olympiad have concluded. Whew. OK China, you've got some sweeping up to do, so we'll leave you to it. But before we depart, may we just say that your closing ceremonies were just as overblown and nonsensical as the ones that opened the proceedings? Just look at the photo following the jump. WTF? Why are the men suspended in midair banging on wheels of cheese? And what exactly are "lucky cloud yarn strips?" But in addition to the many, many hours of nightmare fuel you have provided, there has been so much more. Let's review. The winners • Dogs. Chinese government spent $6 million to take dog off of restaurant menus in all host cities. "General Tso's Tibetan Monk" still there, however.
• Michael Phelps. In addition to eight gold medals, also bagged Lindsay Lohan, and a book deal. We can only pray to God that it doesn't include recipes. • NBC. The Games became the most viewed U.S. television event of all time, drawing 211 million viewers over 16 days. This beats even the season 2 finale of The Two Coreys. • Jacques Rogge. Not-at-all myopic IOC President declares Games "best ever," and "a total success," then departs Beijing to triumphant fanfare while screaming "I don't know how it works!" • Alicia Sacramone. Despite winning just one silver medal, captured America's heart, plus record for most times image used as desktop wallpaper. Losers: • Chinese protesters. Despite assurances that citizens would be provided safe zones in three Beijing parks in which to demonstrate, not one protest sign was spotted in the city during the entire Olympics. The Chinese government's explanation for this: "All of their concerns were addressed to their satisfaction ." Not shown: Satisfied Chinese protesters hanging by thumbs inside cattle car headed to Nepal. • Lin Miaoke. The 9-year-old Chinese girl was scheduled to sing "Ode to the Motherland" during the opening ceremonies, and did; although a different, more attractive girl was shown on camera, lip-syncing. This technique was also used for all Chris Bosh interviews. • U.S. softball team. Despite losing to U.S. 7-0 and 4-1 in earlier rounds, Japan makes finals and hands U.S. its only loss, 3-1, to win the gold medal. Yes, that seems fair. • Tiki Barber. Mistakenly called NBC TV colleague Jenna Wolfe a very bad word, when actually he probably meant it for Andrea Joyce. • Canadian fencer Sherraine Schalm, who lost in the round of 16: "It's like I imagine being a man. It's like being kicked in the nuts repeatedly, that's how bad it feels. You feel like you want to curl up and die."