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Olympics come to rocking end with a pop party

By Paul Haven

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Aug. 12 2012 5:28 p.m. MDT

In this photo taken with a fisheye lens, pyrotechnics light up the sky above the Olympic Stadium during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Julio Cortez, AP

LONDON — With a little British pomp and a lot of British pop, London brought the curtain down on a glorious Olympic Games on Sunday in a spectacular, technicolor pageant of landmarks, lightshows and lots of fun.

The closing ceremony offered a sensory blast including rock 'n' roll rickshaws, dustbin percussionists, an exploding yellow car and a marching band in red tunics and bearskin hats.

There was a show-stopping reunion of the Spice Girls and a comedy sequence featuring Monty Python's Eric Idle performing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" accompanied by Roman centurions, Scottish bagpipers and a human cannonball.

It was all delivered in a psychedelic mashup that had 80,000 fans at Olympic Stadium stomping, cheering and singing along. Organizers estimated 300 million or more were watching around the world.

Festive and fast-moving, the ceremony opened with pop bands Madness, Pet Shop Boys and One Direction, a shout-out to Winston Churchill and a tribute to the Union Jack — the floor of Olympic Stadium floor arranged to resemble the British flag.

Monochrome recreations of London landmarks were 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.

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.

Liam Gallagher performed "Wonderwall," a 1990s hit by his former band, Oasis, Muse rocked the house with the hard-edged Olympic anthem "Survival," and Queen guitarist Brian May was joined by singer Jessie J for a crowd pleasing "We Will Rock You."

And there still was more to come.

The Who was expected to take the stage at the end of the three-hour paean to British pop, and to the country's triumphant turn hosting the games. The headline performers were each paid a pound, a little more than $1.50.

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. The face of John Lennon appeared on the stadium floor, assembled by 101 fragments of sculpture, and just as quickly gave way to George Michael.

Muse, Fatboy Slim, and Annie Lennox all performed. 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 handed 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.

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