London Olympics close with more music and much praise

LONDON — — It must be true: All good things indeed must come to an end — a fireworks-strafing, confetti-showering and rock-god-reviving end if you're talking about the Summer Olympics that concluded Sunday.

"We lit the flame, and we lit up the world," said Sebastian Coe, head of the organizing committee and an Olympic medalist himself — he won two golds and two silvers in the 1980s.


"On this last day, I can finish with these words," he said. "When our time came, Britain, we did it right."


And there was the success of the event itself, an undertaking that drew raves from some of the toughest critics around: the British people themselves, many of whom had fretted in advance over anticipated traffic, security and even weather nightmares that for the most part failed to fulfill the dire prophecies.

"Brilliant," Sharon Mitchell, 36, and her boyfriend, David Markie, also 36, couldn't stop saying. The couple, both construction workers who live in Northhamptonshire, took in gymnastics, badminton and, on Sunday, the gold-medal match of a sport they didn't even know they liked until they got tickets for it, men's handball.

The transit, the sports, the venues, all the medals Team Great Britian won — all brilliant, they said.

"What are we going to watch after this?" Mitchell wondered.

Perhaps they taped the closing ceremony, a raucous tribute to British music that gave the athletes, many wearing their medals, one last party before they scatter. After they paraded onto the stage, segmented to look like a giant Union Jack, the athletes settled into the sunken wedges between the flag lines for the rest of the show.

It didn't have quite the charm and eccentricity of the Danny Boyle-directed opening ceremony, an evocation of British culture that featured the Queen herself, in a skit with James Bond, as well as dancing National Health Service doctors and nurses, cavorting Mary Poppinses and the beloved Mr. Bean joining the Chariots of Fire runners.

Instead, before an audience that included Prince Harry and his sister-in-law Kate, Sunday's extravaganza was a little more karaoke bar and a little less high-minded. Although there was an attempt at a bit of a narrative, a day that begins with newspapers and ends with a street sweeper, it was mostly a string of musical numbers.

There was a Spice Girls reunion, all five seemingly starved and buffed to their '90s shapes, and appearances by the Pet Shop Boys, Ray Davies, Annie Lennox, Liam Gallagher, Eric Idle, Russell Brand and, perhaps best of all, an extended final set by The Who. Poignantly, John Lennon joined the festivities, singing "Imagine" in footage remastered by Yoko Ono herself and signed on stage by a children's choir from Liverpool.

There were also a few missteps — George Michael gets two songs? David Bowie doesn't show but his music is background for runway-walking supermodels?

In addition to the musical review, there was business to transact: The Games were closed here and transferred to the 2016 host, a move symbolized by London Mayor Boris Johnson handing off the Olympic flag to his counterpart in Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes — thus triggering much samba dancing on stage.

There was a reluctance, though, to let go of this Olympics just yet. The audience at the stadium, home to some dazzling track and field events, booed when the Games were declared closed, and the cauldron started to fade.

"These were happy and glorious Games," said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.


There may have been some dissent on that account in some parts of town: Cabdrivers, for example, continued to grumble that they had lost fares as traffic lanes were set aside for official Olympic vehicles. Some restauranteurs, complained that they lost regular customers who, fearing congestion or encouraged to telecommute for work, stayed home during the Games.

But while the final balance sheet won't be known for some time, Visa, the credit card company, said it showed strong spending patterns during the Games. The company, an official sponsor of the Games, estimated cardholders spent more than $1.4 billion here during the past two weeks.

Initially, the Games did experience some transit problems — drivers hired for the event sometimes got lost driving athletes and guests from the airport to the village or their hotels. And there was outrage in the first days of competition, when large swaths of empty seats were seen by viewers at home, many of whom had been foiled in their attempts to buy tickets and were angered to see them go unused.

After a couple of days of scrambling, organizers eventually released seats to a public that seemed quite eager to snap them up.

"Getting the tickets in the beginning was difficult," said Markie, the construction worker. "We didn't get any in the first batch."

It was worth it, though, for the experience of having the Games in his own country. "I'm proud of Britain," Markie said.

Martin Evans, 36, a surgeon from South Wales, termed the whole experience "fantastic." He and his wife Amanda, 39, brought their 5- and 7-year-old daughters, Mali and Nia, to the women's modern pentathlon events on Sunday, although they left their four-week-old baby Cadi at home.

"It's been great. It's a good thing for London," he said. "At work, everyone is captivated by it."

His wife, Amanda, 39, said she was thrilled when London was chosen as the 2012 host.

"I've always wanted to go to the Olympics," she said. "I can't believe how organized it's been. There have been people and signs everywhere. It's all come together. It's really, really been good."

And the Games have lived up to their slogan, "Inspire a generation." The Evans girls have plans to add gymnastics, tennis and golf to their lives.


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