LONDON: A fun, festive and fast-moving Olympic closing ceremony got off to a rocking start Sunday with a shout-out to Winston Churchill and a celebration of the Union Flag.
Pop bands Madness, Pet Shop Boys and One Direction kicked off a star-studded extravaganza that promised to keep a worldwide audience entertained well into the night – and dancing all the way to Rio.
Just a few minutes in, the show, put together by artistic director Kim Gavin, already featured a sensory blast including rock 'n roll rickshaws, dustbin percussionists and an exploding yellow car and a marching band in red tunics.
There was also a pageant of monochrome recreations of London landmarks covered in newsprint, from Big Ben’s clock tower and Tower Bridge to the London Eye ferris wheel and the chubby highrise known as the Gherkin.
And there was much more to come.
The Who, the surviving members of Queen and the Spice Girls took to the stage at a heaving Olympic Stadium during a three-hour paean to British pop and to the country’s triumphant turn hosting the games.
Prince William’s wife, Kate, and Prince Harry took seats next to Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee. They sang along to “God Save the Queen.”
Perhaps the best seats were for the 10,800 athletes, who began marching in as one – the flagbearers first, in a brilliant show of color – to form what Gavin called a human mosh pit on the field.
The ceremony had something for everyone, from tween girls to 1960s hippies. George Michael, Muse, Fatboy Slim, and Annie Lennox all performed. What a way to end a Games far more successful than many expected. Security woes were overcome and traffic nightmares never materialized. The weather held up, more or less, and British athletes overachieved.
Britons, who had fretted for weeks that the Games would become a fiasco, were buoyed by their biggest medal haul since 1908. The U.S. edged China in both the gold medal and total medal standings, eclipsing its best performance at an Olympics on foreign soil after the Dream Team narrowly held off Spain in basketball for the country’s 46th gold.