London says goodbye with musical extravaganza

By Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters

Posted at Aug 13 2012 09:10 AM | Updated as of Aug 13 2012 05:20 PM

The Spice Girls perform during the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, August 12, 2012. Photo by Stefan Wermuth, Reuters.

LONDON - The London Olympics closed with a dazzling, and at times eccentric extravaganza of music and dance that rocked a main stadium filled with royalty, celebrities, 10,500 athletes and a sea of exuberant spectators.

The three-hour show starred the latest names in pop, a holograph of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, the Spice Girls, and Monty Python actor Eric Idle singing "Bright Side of Life" with roller-skating nuns in Union Jack underwear.

Stephen Daldry, head of the London ceremonies, predicted audiences would be as wowed by the finale as they were by filmmaker Danny Boyle's opening spectacular with both ceremonies unabashedly British in humour, culture and soundtrack.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of London organising committee LOCOG, told the crowd he said on day one of the Games that Britain was determined to show the nation at its best.

"Britain, we did it right," he said.

The 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium that has witnessed tears and triumphs was transformed for the closing ceremony into a mini-London, with model landmarks including Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral on a Union Jack shaped stage.

The ceremony opened with nine strikes of parliament's "Big Ben" as singer Emeli Sande was unwrapped on a newspaper garbage truck to sing "Read All About It".

Actor Timothy Spall dressed as British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill recited the same lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest as in the Games' opening 16-days ago: "Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises."

Royal presence

Members of the band 'One Direction' perform at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium August 12, 2012. Photo by Chris Helgren, Reuters.

The audience cheered as Prince Harry arrived to represent his grandmother Queen Elizabeth alongside International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.

Then the party, expected to be watched by 300 million people globally, kicked up a gear.

"Batman and Robin" appeared from an exploding car and the ska-pop group Madness belted out "Our House", just as they did from the top of Buckingham palace in June when the nation celebrated the queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Rogge described the Games as "happy and glorious", lifting the words from the national anthem, a homage to the queen.

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" and then teen hearthrobs One Direction.

"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 30 minutes into the ceremony, entering casually rather than parading in their national teams as at the opening ceremony.

Waving flags and proudly displaying medals, the athletes streamed past volunteers in blue bowler hats with light bulbs on top, taking photos of the audience and new friends among the other 10,500 athletes who head off in their masses on Monday.

Winners from the men's marathon held on Sunday took to the podium for the final award ceremony of the Games, with Rogge presenting the gold medal to Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich.

Six representatives from 70,000 volunteers manning the Games headed to the stage to be officially thanked to huge cheers.

Stars come out

Lights off - and the party was back on with the voices of late singers Freddie Mercury and John Lennon filling the night and the stars really started to come out.

George Michael appeared dressed head-to-toe in black leather and wearing shades to sing "Freedom" and the stadium shook as 50 pimped-up scooters, with echoes of Britain's 1960s Mod era, raced in with the Kaiser Chiefs.

Nine supermodels strutted to a David Bowie soundtrack, singer Annie Lennox sailed in a ghost galleon singing "Little Bird" and Ed Sheeran arrived on stage to sing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" as a tightrope walker dangled over the stadium.

Comedian Russell Brand was followed by DJ Fatboy Slim then three white convertible limousines drove in, opening up one-by-one to reveal pop stars Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz.

One of the biggest cheers of the night came as five coloured London taxi drove into the centre of the stadium letting out five famous fares - the Spice Girls.

The reformation of Sporty, Ginger, Baby, Posh and Scary, the 1990s pop band, was one of the worst kept secrets of the night as the band was spotted rehearsing but the cheers were deafening as the singers climbed into cages above the taxis and drove around the stadium singing "Spice Up Your Life".

Monty Python actor Eric Idle popped up from below the stage to sing "Bright Side of Life" as roller-skating nuns, Morris folk dancers and leg-kicking Roman soldiers took to the stage and a man was fired from a cannon.

Noel Gallagher, Muse, the list went on with the stars only paid 1 pound each to perform, delighted to be involved in one of the biggest parties in Britain.

A holographic image of the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury who died in 1991, roused the whole stadium into an ear-splitting chorus of "Deyo" before Queen guitarist Brian May walked out to play "Brighton Rock" and "We Will Rock You".

A burst of fireworks signalled the start of the formal proceedings of the night with two male choirs singing the Olympic anthem as the Olympic flag was lowered and passed by London Mayor Boris Johnson to the 2016 host city, Rio.

Brazil then gave a taste of what can be expected in four years time with a colourful show of samba and tribal dancers and an appearance by famous Brazilian soccer player Pele.

Speeches by Coe and Rogge moved quickly to the close with the Olympic cauldron lowered to ground level and the band Take That singing "Rule the World" with lead singer Gary Barlow making the night despite his daughter being stillborn last week.

From the roof of the stadium former ballerina Darcey Bussell flew into the stadium, wearing brilliant orange wings that echoed the shape of a flaming phoenix behind her.

The audience did not want the night to end, booing as the moment came to extinguish the Olympic flame.

But a performance by veteran rockers The Who and blaze of fireworks complete with a shower of red, white and blue confetti ended the Games as they started -- with cheers and laughter. (editing by Michael Holden)