Olympics come to rocking end with a pop party

Associated Press Modified: August 12, 2012 at 6:04 pm •  Published: August 12, 2012
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LONDON (AP) — 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.

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 with 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.

"We lit the flame, and we lit up the world," said London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe. "When our time came, Britain, we did it right."

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge declared the Olympics over with praise for the athletes.

"Through your commitment to fair play, your respect for opponents, and your grace in defeat as well as in victory, you have earned the right to be called Olympians," he said, adding "these were happy and glorious games."

But the night was about splash more than speeches.

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.

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