London Olympics: Finale shows the bright side of life
- 13 August 2012
- From the section UK
You can imagine the Twenty Twelve-style meeting that perhaps was held at the offices of Games organisers Locog, or in the corridors of government these past weeks.
"These Games have gone so well. What are we going to do when they are all over? How will we distract the public from impending gloom?"
The bright idea must have been to refocus them with a gig. A celebration of British pop from the past 50 years.
Closing ceremony artistic director Kim Gavin made no bones about the fact he wanted to host the best ever after-show party.
The sport was the main event, he said, this slot was the celebration.
It had less lofty historical aspirations or scene-setting duties than its elder sibling, Danny Boyle's wonder creation, born two-and-a-bit weeks ago.
Instead of the industrial revolution, workers' rights and quirky Britain, it was a riot of music and colour. Beginning in front of a constructed skyline of London that the roadies finished putting up only as the audience came in at the start of the evening.
It was less than 24 hours since sport had finished with its dramas here.
Big noises from One Direction, through Emeli Sande and the Pet Shop Boys and the Kaiser Chiefs to George Michael were rolled out in front of the athletes, who walked in to fill the "mosh pit" on the stadium floor.
They like a mosh pit front and centre stage, these London 2012 ceremony directors. And a smattering of Royals - Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge were here.
Did the ceremony do its job? To be honest, it felt a bit like elite sport, down one minute and up the next. Unlike the carefully scripted effect of the opener, at a time of national unity, you were sometimes left wondering how to feel?
One minute the ceremony rocked out to Brian May following the big screen ghost of Freddie Mercury. It was sombre with a lowered Olympic flag and Welsh male voice choir the next.
Muse's Olympics anthem Survival has played out in the last fortnight at moments of great sporting drama. Tonight it was tested to full stadium effect, with flames rushing up to the sky either side of the band.
But that immediately followed a comedy moment where a man was fired out of a cannon. During the Games we've seen great bravery in performance. This took real guts.
The Spice Girls reunion was memorable not necessarily for the five former music dominators stood on top of taxis. More for Boris Johnson pulling wild dance moves while standing next to the prime minister.
What was Annie Lennox doing on a skeletal boat? Was that a reference to the slender and beautiful super models near her in the running order, people asked?
It took the young guns, of the generation these Games have aimed to inspire, to really get the party started. A bold Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, Taio Cruz following Fat Boy Slim.
There were poignant parts, it's good ceremony territory this, poignancy.
Until now, Elbow's One Day Like This has always seemed to be the perfect song to end a festival. Who knew it would be a fitting soundtrack to the flood of athletes who swept into the stadium?
If Lord Coe had wanted to bottle the feel-good factor from the Olympics and save it for the country, this would have been the moment to uncork all the bottles and scoop it up.
Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill makes the point that men and women cannot trade places. It was fitting at a Games where women have made up a greater percentage of the athletes than ever before, and been allowed to box. To gold medal-winning effect for Britain.
There were reminders too that real, non-Olympic life was just around the corner, with the most commercially successful bands garnering the biggest cheers; supermodels strutting stuff; traffic - albeit wrapped in newspaper - taking over the floor.
'Happy and glorious'
Like the end of the Olympics, the finish line of the ceremony rushed up to meet us.
International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge invoked the national anthem by saying the Games had been "happy and glorious".
Lord Coe's voice cracked either through exhaustion or emotion as he declared "When our time came, Britain, we did it right, thank you!"
His praise for the volunteers at the Games brought a speech-stopping ovation.
There was audience participation after such crowd support during the Olympics. A genuine "groan" from the country that gave the world panto when it was announced the cauldron would be extinguished.
And a hush of expectation ahead of Rio's segment. How would the Games look when passed over to another country's custody?
There was so much glitz you could hear it rustle. We have Beckham, let's be frank, they've got Pele. We have models, they have scanty Samba dancers. Whisper it, will Rio's Games have the sex factor, while London's had the XXXth Olympiad factor?
There were rousing performances from Take That and the Who to take our minds off the fact that the Olympic flame was about to go out. And to remind us that actually, worse things than the end of the Games do happen.
Before this all begins again for the Paralympic Games in a couple of weeks' time perhaps best then, to keep the words of Eric Idle in mind, as he bobbed back up through the Stadium floor, shortly before being bamboozled by Bhangra.
"If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten, and that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
"Always look on the bright side of life."