The London 2012 closing ceremony kicked off with a typically British mass singalong Sunday to bring the curtain down on an Olympic Games that have retained the feelgood factor throughout.
The show in the Olympic Stadium, entitled “A Symphony of British Music”, is a celebration of Britain’s pop prowess, featuring some of the kingdom’s best-known acts like the Spice Girls, Muse and George Michael.
The pumped-up 80,000-strong crowd wasted no time getting into the party atmosphere, sending Mexican waves around the bowl as they eagerly waited in anticipation for the show to start.
The three-hour spectacle began with New Year-style Big Ben chimes counting down to 9:00pm (2000 GMT).
Britain’s Union Jack flag was laid out in the form of newsprint ramps to the stadium centre, though on closer inspection the story headlines were quotations from classic English literature.
The central stage featured a panorama of the London skyline, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Battersea Power Station, the London Eye observation wheel, the Gherkin, the Houses of Parliament’s clock tower and the Royal Albert Hall.
Iconic British cars such as London taxis and Reliant Robins, covered in newspaper, drove around the stadium, starting off a journey through a day in the life of London, from the morning rush hour to sunset.
Wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill, played by actor Timothy Spall, then appeared through the top of the “Big Ben” clock tower, bellowing lines from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”.
“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,” he boomed, recalling the line that inspired Danny Boyle’s dramatic opening ceremony on July 27.
In his biggest role so far, 27-year-old Prince Harry, third in line to the throne, represented Queen Elizabeth II at the show.
As the British national anthem rang out to greet his arrival along with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, a sea of Union Jack flags filling the scene in reference to Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee celebrations in June.
1980s ska band Madness, who played on the Buckingham Palace roof for the queen’s jubilee, then kicked off a mass singalong with their hit “Our House”, which was followed by Blur’s “Parklife”.
“After 16 days of competition, we wanted to host a celebration of all that’s good about London, British people, our music and our culture,” Kim Gavin, the show’s artistic director, said beforehand.
“And capture the spirit that’s inspired so much global creativity over the past 50 years.
Tickets for the ceremony cost between £20.12 ($31.60, 25.65 euros) and £1,500 ($2,350, 1,900 euros).
More than 300 million people would be watching around the world, the audience were told.
“It’s been great from a national perspective with the massive tally of medals we’ve won,” said Craig Collins from Rugby, central England, who paid £150 for his ticket.
“Having the Olympics in our own country has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and having the home athletes doing so well has been uplifting for the whole country.
“Having seen the opening ceremony and what a great spectacle that was, we’re hoping it will be as good, if not better. We’re looking forward to a party atmosphere.”
Jonathan Mann, 51, who also paid £150 for his seat, said: “I have been absolutely blown away by the whole of the Olympics. The whole spirit of the country has been fantastic. It’s been absolutely incredible.”
Emma Mann, 40, added: “It’s been like a carnival in our house for the last two weeks.”
As well as the flame being extinguished in the stadium, the ceremony was to feature a segment looking forward to the Rio de Janeiro Games of 2016, and London Mayor Boris Johnson handing over the Olympic flag to his counterpart from the giant Brazilian city.
Photo AFP, Adrian Dennis