Heavenly pop hits close London Olympics
It was one mega pop hit after another. The Spice Girls, Queen, Bowie, Jessie J, George Michael, The Who and the Beatles. British culture in a glorious three-hour long song sheet.
Today's London 2012 Olympic games closing ceremony never missed a beat, offering a sensory blast of 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. Organisers 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 materialised. 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 today.
''We lit the flame, and we lit up the world,'' said London organising 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 neighbourhoods 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 taking the stage in a triumph of a finale.
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, symbolising 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. There was no sign of Queen Elizabeth II, who made a memorable mock parachute entrance at the July 27 opening ceremony.
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.
Britons, who had fretted for weeks that the games would become a fiasco, were buoyed by their biggest medal haul since 1908 - 29 golds and 65 medals in all.
The United States edged China in both the gold medal and total medal standings, eclipsing its best performance at an Olympics on foreign soil after the Dream Team narrowly held off Spain in basketball for the country's 46th gold.
''It's been an incredible fortnight,'' said Coe, an Olympic champion in his own right.
While the games may have lacked some of the drama and grandeur of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, there were many unforgettable moments.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt became an Olympic legend by repeating as champion in both the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints. Michael Phelps ended his long career as the most decorated Olympian in history.
And our team, New Zealand, returned their best medal haul since the 1988 Seoul Games, with five golds.