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Olympics to close with pop party extravaganza

By Paul Haven

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Aug. 12 2012 3:49 p.m. MDT

Performers cycle on the stage during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.

Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

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 Jack.

Pop bands Madness, Pet Shop Boys and One Direction opened an 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, 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 clocktower and Tower Bridge to the London Eye ferris wheel and the chubby highrise known as the Gherkin.

It all spread out across an Olympic Stadium floor arranged to resemble the British flag.

Street percussion group Stomp built the noise into a frenzy, and dancers brandished brooms, in a nod to the spontaneous popular movement to clean up London after riots shook neighborhoods not far from Olympic Stadium just a year ago.

And there was much, much more to come.

The Who, the surviving members of Queen and the Spice Girls were expected to take the stage during the 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."

But perhaps the best seats in the house were for the 10,800 athletes, who marched in as one, rather than with their nations, symbolizing the harmony and friendship inspired by the games.

As the crowd cheered their heroes and flashbulbs rippled through the stadium, the Olympians cheered back, some carrying national flags, others snapping photographs with smartphones and cameras.

They held hands, embraced and carried each other on their shoulders, finally forming 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 were all expected to perform. Queen Elizabeth II, who made a memorable mock parachute entrance at the July 27 opening ceremony, was expected to be on hand.

Eight minutes were turned over to Brazil, host of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, which promises an explosion of samba, sequins and Latin cool. Following tradition, the mayor of London was to hand the Olympic flag off to his Rio counterpart.

There were also to be speeches by Rogge and London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe, and the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

What a way to end a games far more successful than many Londoners expected. Security woes were overcome, and traffic nightmares never materialized. The weather held up, more or less, and British athletes overachieved.

It all came at a price tag of $14 billion, three times the original estimate. But nobody wanted to spoil the fun with such mundane concerns, at least not on this night.

Britons, who had fretted for weeks that the games would become a fiasco, were buoyed by their biggest medal haul since 1908 — 29 golds and 65 medals in all.

The United States 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.

"It's been an incredible fortnight," said Coe, an Olympic champion in his own right.

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