Britain bids farewell to the Games

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IOL pic aug13 oly closing flags

Reuters

British flags are waved as the national anthem is sung during the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London.

London - London said farewell to the Olympic Games on Sunday with a high-octane romp through British pop music, bringing the curtain down on more than two weeks of action at the end of which the United States topped the sporting world with 46 gold medals.

There was another sellout crowd at the 80 000-capacity athletics stadium in East London for the final act of the Games, and another 300-million people were expected to tune in on television sets around the world.

The concert opened with a countdown followed by the chimes of Big Ben marking 9pm (20h00 GMT). The set included the London landmark, as well as replicas of the London Eye, Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral.

Actor Timothy Spall read from Shakespeare's The Tempest dressed as war-time prime minister Winston Churchill, and after a London “rush hour” featuring real cars and trucks wrapped in newspaper, Prince Harry entered to represent his grandmother Queen Elizabeth.

Later in the concert, athletes enter and the winner of the men's marathon is awarded his medal.

The ceremony then switches to an hour-long celebration of British pop of the last five decades featuring hits such as Imagine, Bohemian Rhapsody and Pinball Wizard.

The Spice Girls, George Michael and The Who are among the cast set to perform, and, after a section devoted to the 2016 Olympic hosts Rio de Janeiro there will be closing speeches and the Olympic Flame is extinguished.

The stadium has seen some of the most spectacular moments of the Games, including Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt defending the 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles he won in such spectacular fashion in Beijing, the latter in a world-beating time.

British supporters will also cherish memories of the venue, where Somali-born runner Mo Farah won the 5 000 and 10 000 double to deafening roars and was celebrated as a symbol of the capital's multi-culturalism.

The host nation won 29 golds to take third place in the rankings, its best result for 104 years which helped lift the nation out of the gloom of an economic recession temporarily buried in the inside pages of the newspapers.

“I will say history has been written by many athletes. The Games were absolutely fabulous. London has absolutely refreshed the Games,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told reporters.

British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed, writing in a succinct message on Twitter: “Britain delivered. We showed the world what we're made of.”

Many will remember London 2012 for the record-breaking exploits of American swimmer Michael Phelps, who took his life-time medal haul to 22 including 18 golds, making him the most decorated Olympian in history.

His tally helped the United States to the top of the Olympic table with 46 golds to second-placed China's 38, reversing the order of the Beijing Games in 2008.

There was, of course, Bolt, the biggest name in athletics and a charismatic ambassador for sprinting.

After winning the 4x100m he went on to a London nightclub to delight dancing fans with a turn as a DJ, shouting out “I am a legend” to the packed dancefloor.

Britons may recall Andy Murray demolishing world number one Roger Federer at Wimbledon to win the men's singles tennis gold, while Jessica Ennis, the “poster girl” of the Games, won the women's heptathlon on the first “super Saturday”.

Despite concerns about the creaky transport system and a shortfall of private security guards, which forced the government to call in thousands of extra troops to help screen visitors, the Games have so far passed by fairly trouble-free.

A furore over empty seats at several Olympic venues blew over, especially once the track and field showcase kicked in and drew capacity crowds for virtually every session.

Even the weather improved as the Games wore on. Bright sunshine has graced the closing weekend of a festival that has helped to lift spirits in Britain. - Reuters


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