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Closing Ceremonies put a musical wrap on London's wonderful Olympics

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 12, 2012 03:50 PM

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LONDON -- The London Olympics concluded Sunday night with a Closing Ceremonies that emphasized Great Britain’s rich musical history, from The Beatles to Queen to The Who and so many classic songs and musicians in between.

(The Spice Girls were also reunited, for one night only.)

And as the Ceremonies appropriately wrapped up two weeks of extraordinary competition and athletic feats, surprisingly cooperative weather, and a city that was a fabulous, organized, collectively charming host, you were left with one thought as Roger Daltrey closed the festivities with “My Generation.”

If only London could come out for an encore.

The Closing Ceremonies, which were less elaborate, slightly more musical (who knew Take That could sing like that?), and much more relaxed than the Opening Ceremonies, were a celebration of a Games that began plagued by concerns about travel, security, and logistics, but will end up remembered for the extraordinary performances of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Brits Mo Farrah and Jessica Ennis, among so many more.

Sebastian Coe, the legendary distance runner who served as the chair of the London Organizing Committee, summed it all up perfectly in his speech near the end of Sunday’s Ceremonies, and you could almost hear him exhale:

"When our time came, Britain, we did it right."

It’s hard to imagine anyone who was here for the extraordinary spectacle would disagree.

Live updates from the Ceremonies are below. Thank you for reading, everyone. And thank you for everything, London.

* * *

12:01: London has countless options for a musical closer, but they chose a great one: The Who, singing "Baba O'Riley."

11:51: Take That takes the stage, singing "Rule The World." Winding toward the finale now as fireworks light up the sky.

11:49: Rogge declares the Games closed. Someone should start an impromptu game of handball just to spite him.

11:44: Coe: "When our time came, Britain, we did it right." Truth.

11:39: Sebastian Coe, the chair of the London Organizing Committee, and Jacques Rogge take the stage for the closing of the games. When Coe pauses after "... wonderful city,'' there's an enormous roar.

11:37: Pele!

11:31: Samba time. It's Brazil's party now.

11:28: Time to look ahead. The Road to Rio -- site of the 2016 Games -- is underway, with the Brazilian anthem playing to signify the transition.

11:17: Gold lights flash to the beat all through the top deck as May segues into "We Will Rock You." Jessie J. will apparently try to do her best Freddie.

11:16: Brian May and the surviving members of Queen take the stage. Crowd is bouncing.

11:14 Huge video board shows Freddie Mercury performing live at Wembley Stadium in 1986, doing an amazing call-and-response with the audience. This is tremendous.

11:12: Muse performing the official Olympic song, "Survival." It will not top what Eric Idle just did. That's the official song.

11:05: Eric Idle. Always a good idea. Always looking on the bright side of life.

11:05: Someone is climbing into a cannon as ELO's "Blue Sky'' plays. I don't think it's the Queen, but I'm not writing anything off after that stunt she pulled at the Opening Ceremonies.

10:58: Liam Gallagher singing "Wonderwall.'' I swear I've heard that song twice as much as any anthem this week.

10:55: I was on the right track -- it's the Spice Girls. Reunited for one night only!

10:54: Ten black cabs drive on to the stage. I suspect David Beckham is driving all of them.

10:51: They're joined by Taio Cruz, and break into the Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancing." They couldn't have paid Barry Gibb a pound to come sing it?

10:47: Jessie J. hands off to Tinie Tempah, and as he sings "Written In The Stars,'' this place has turned into the most athletic dance club ever.

10:39: Russell Brand is singing "I Am The Walrus.'' Yes. But he gets a huge cheer when he duplicates Mo Farrah and Usian Bolt's trademark celebrations.

10:36: Ed Sheeran performs Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here'' very, very well, the album cover is recreated with a tightrope walker, and suddenly it's a few hours beyond midnight and I'm in college again.

10:32: Cannot tell if this is Annie Lennox, Zombie Annie Lennox, or just Marilyn Manson amping up the makeup a smidge. She is the figurehead on a ghost galleon, singing "Little Bird." (File that one under sentences you never expect to peck out as a sports writer.)

10:26: I believe cartel of British supermodels has arrived. A tribute to the British fashion industry. And to hitting underlings with telephones.

10:23: Some guy who is much younger than Roger Daltrey sings "Pinball Wizard.'' Presuming he's from the "Tommy" musical. Also presuming this is a clue that pinball will be an Olympic sport in Rio in 2016.

10:13: It's George Michael! No, not the one from "Arrested Development." The one from the '80s! A little grayer, but looks the same. Believe the song he is singing is not longer called, "Freedom '90," though. Because that would make it seem old.

10:11: Fragments of a sculpture are used to form the face of John Lennon, with clouds projected above it. Feels silly writing that, but it was very cool. Who think of this stuff?

10:09: Freddie Mercury's voice echoes throughout the dark stadium, singing the first few lines of "Bohemian Rhapsody,'' followed by "Imagine.'' Chills.

10:05: As "Here Comes The Sun" plays, athletes pay homage to the more than 70,000 "Games Marker" volunteers. Nice touch, because they really did a tremendous job, offering knowledge and good humor when ever a clueless reporter (ahem) or such had a question.

10:01: Jacques Rogge, the life of any party, hands out the final medals of the Olympics to the men's marathoners.

9:53: The athletes have all arrived, settling into their colorful wedges. A group of drummers then follows, decked out in white. They're followed by performers (maybe this is where Kate Moss comes in?) carrying a total of 303 white boxes, which represents the 303 Olympic events. Pretty sure at least 103 of them were in swimming. The music of choice is Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill.'' For once, it's not "Wonderwall."

9:48: French athletes are taking turns doing backflips. I'm just going to assume they're gymnasts and not bodybuilders.

9:44: This isn't a ceremony. It's a party. Everyone is smiling.

9:39: Among the US athletes expected to be in the crowd are Aly Raisman, Kayla Harrison, and Missy Franklin.

9:33: The Parade of Athletes is underway -- lots of flags, lots of smiles, and a few medals here and there. Sailor Ben Ainsley carries the flag for the Brits. An enormous graphic on the stage transforms from the Union Flag to an enormous circle of light with more than 200 flags representing the countries competing here each taking up a wedge. It looks like the world's coolest and most colorful "Trivial Pursuit" board.

9:15: Michael Caine delivers his classic line from the film "The Italian Job." (No, not the Mark Wahlberg version -- the 1969 original): "I told you to blow their doors off!"

9:05 Fascinating list of performers scheduled, including: Queen (who sings?), The Who, The Spice Girls, Take That (anyone remember Robbie Williams as the next-big thing?), Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, the Pet Shop Boys, One Direction. Do not see Sir Elton John listed. Several perform during an 11-minute segment called "Street Party." Gotta say, "West End Girls'' holds up.

* * *

LONDON -- Hard to believe the Closing Ceremonies are upon us already, isn't it? Feel like just a few days ago that the Queen was jumping out of a plane with James Bond and Paul McCartney was leading everyone in Olympic park in a "Hey, Jude" singalong.

But Sunday night brings the formal conclusion of a Games that confirmed the greatness of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, awed us with wonderful stories such as Kayla Harrison, Katie Taylor, Mo Farrah and Guor Marial, among so many more. Now it's time to celebrate the past two weeks, and the city that was an amazingly sunny (literally and figuratively) host.

I'll post live updates here throughout the festivities (provided the wireless doesn't keep kicking out). Beware of spoilers -- I'm presuming you probably don't need a warning at this point -- and enjoy the final chapter on a Summer Olympics that exceeded expectations.

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