London Olympics organisers promised an unforgettable party to close the 2012 Games and they pulled out all the stops to make it a night to remember, with Britain stamped all over it.
The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium that has witnessed tears and triumphs over the past week was transformed into a mini-London, with model landmarks including Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral dotted across a Union Jack-shaped stage.
A galaxy of stars including the Pet Shop Boys, Kaiser Chiefs, George Michael, Tinie Tempah and Jessie J took part. Pop supremo George Michael performed for the first time since his life-threatening battle with pneumonia.
The ceremony opened with nine strikes of parliament’s Big Ben clock as singer Emeli Sande was unwrapped on a newspaper garbage truck to sing Read All About It. Vehicles covered in newsprint set off around a road circling the stage as day appeared to break in London and actor Timothy Spall, dressed as British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill quoted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
The audience cheered as Prince Harry arrived to represent Queen Elizabeth, alongside International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, and stood to sing the national anthem.
Then the party, which was watched by estimated 300m people, really kicked up a gear.
“Batman and Robin” appeared from an exploding car and the ska-pop group Madness belted out Our House, a reminder of the thousands of street parties held across Britain in June during celebrations for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, when the 1980s band sang the same song atop Buckingham Palace.
A troop of 160 guards from the Household Division Ceremonial State Band joined the arena, followed by the Pet Shop Boys singing West End Girls, then teen heart-throbs One Direction with What Makes You Beautiful.
“Aaaahh can’t believe we’re missing One Direction as were not allowed in!!! Grrr!!,” tweeted British swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who won two bronze medals at London.
Athletes from the 204 competing nations joined the closing ceremony 30 minutes after it kicked off, entering casually together rather than parading in their national teams as at the opening ceremony.
The acts performing at the three-hour closing ceremony were supposed to be a closely guarded secret, but some artists, such as George Michael, Muse, and Ed Sheeran confirmed their participation. The Spice Girls were photographed back together and rehearsing offsite ahead of the night.
The mood of the evening was set by Stephen Daldry, in charge of the London ceremonies, who advised everyone to “get the beers in” and predicting audiences and athletes would be as wowed by the finale as they were by Danny Boyle’s opening spectacular.
Boyle earned praise for an opening ceremony which was unabashedly British in its humour, cultural references and soundtrack. Some audiences though, were left confused by some of the quirky British references.
The closing ceremony was likely to also have some scratching their heads as cyclists appeared in fluorescent orange sculptural head-wear and Batman’s appearance was really a reference to classic British TV comedy show Only Fools and Horses.
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