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London 2012 closing ceremony ends a 'happy and glorious' Olympics

The London 2012 closing ceremony had some fun moments, but far more memorable was the show the hosts put on during the past 17 days, allowing everyone to feel a bit British. 

By Staff writer / August 13, 2012

Fireworks explode during the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium Sunday.

Pawel Kopczynski/REUTERS



Before the 2012 Olympics began, it was not immediately clear why London wanted the Summer Games at all.

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London, after all, was not Beijing, Turin, or Salt Lake. It had nothing to prove to anyone and certainly didn't need to spend $14 billion for a party. All Britain – indeed all the British Commonwealth – had already had a rather large one to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the throne. After a Diamond Jubilee, wouldn't an Olympic Games, even a golden one, be a little less precious?

But now we know better. We know that there are, in fact, not enough days in the year to celebrate being British.

On Sunday night here in London, the Olympic Games ended with closing ceremonies that reminded the world that, yes, a lot of popular music has come from Britain. It was fun in parts, like whenever Eric Idle was on stage or when Muse tore through "Survival," which has been the anthem of these Olympics, played before the start of every event with great effect. The Spice Girls were a hoot, too. 

But the closing ceremonies generally failed to find the whimsy or the visceral honesty of the opening ceremonies, which captured something more deeply British, instead contenting themselves with essentially being a "greatest hits" collection – the world's most expensive episode of "Britain's Got Talent."

As desserts go, it was perhaps a bit too much treacle. But that is not what the world will remember from these Olympics. It will remember what it felt like, for a little more than a fortnight, to be made a part of the happy few on this small island – this blessed plot – and what a joy that was.

"These were happy and glorious Games," said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the closing ceremonies, quoting a line from the British national anthem.

And he was right.

Breathing space 

In the end, the IOC's decision to award the Olympics to London – to a city that has 1,000 years of history, that has ruled over an empire upon which the sun never set, and which has been a world hub of finance, culture, and politics since well before there was a modern Olympics – was a masterstroke. At no point since the turn of the century have the Olympics been held in a place that was so palpably content with itself.

That lent the Games something they have not had for some time – and which made the London Olympics so welcome. Breathing space. Gold medals were not statements of global hegemony, they were just reasons for the home crowd to cheer a bit louder. Olympic venues were not infused with a nation's sense of its own destiny. In places, the operation had the feeling of a giant Erector Set.


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