The cream of the British music industry -- including The Spice Girls, The Who, and the teaming of pop goddess Jesse J with the remaining members of Queen -- rocked Olympic Stadium to close the London 2012 Games in a spectacular, joyful ceremony.
The dazzling, psychedelic celebration took spectators on a journey through the swinging sixties of Carnaby Street into 1980s new wave and onto the power ballads of the nineties before closing with rap and pop tracks that rule today's U.K. charts. Sunday's ceremony, titled "A Symphony of British Music," was set against an ever-changing physical and digital backdrop.
"We lit the flame, and we lit up the world," London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe said. "When our time came, Britain, we did it right."
The often tongue-in-cheek performances began with replicas of famed London landmarks Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye being stripped of newspaper wrappings to reveal a bustling, technicolor representation of a metropolis in motion. The soundtrack? "Our House," sung live by 80s' chart-toppers Madness, as well as Blur's "Park Life," and the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls." Singer Ray Davies later arrived via black cab to perform the Kink's 1967 classic “Waterloo Sunset."
Members of Stomp, the ageless, trash-can-pounding West End musical really got the 80,000 revelers in attendance cheering the city, the athletes and the volunteers that made these Games such a success.
Along with the greats of the British music scene, more than 4,100 participants including 3,500 adult volunteers and 380 schoolchildren from the six east London host boroughs participated in the event according to the official London 2012 website.
‘We want to create a fabulous emotional experience, something people remember for years to come," said artistic director Kim Gavin in a statement prior to the closing ceremony. And memorable it was, in particular the moment when the thousands of indefatigable volunteers were symbolically thanked for their hard work.
The audience first rose to their feet in unison as the march of the athletes began with flag-bearers entering the stadium in single file. In a surprise twist, the more than 10,000 participants from 204 countries arrived via many entry points, including through the rows of seated spectators who cheered and offered back-slaps to the competitors as they took their places around a giant Union Jack shaped stage that covered the arena floor.
In contrast to the opening ceremony athletes marched together, not by nationality, thus allowing them to be free to enjoy the festivities as a united group. This tradition began in Melbourne, Australia at the 1956 Games and is seen as bringing the global athletes together as one nation.
Some 70,000 pixels adorned the seats of the stadium, turning the arena into a giant light-box of flashing visuals that encouraged the participants to sing along as George Michael took the stage for his mega-hit "Freedom 90." In a poignant moment, the face of John Lennon appeared to hover above the crowd and sing his 1971 hit "Imagine" while a three dimensional jigsaw of the late Beatle's face was created center stage. Later in the proceedings, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen who died in 1991, also made an appearance via video screens.
Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge and other members of the Royal Family were in attendance to watch the flag handover ceremony. The Queen released a statement thanking the volunteers but did not attend as there was no official role for the head of state, according to Buckingham Palace. Prince William had to return to his post as a helicopter search-and-rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force in advance of the evening's entertainment.
During a tribute to British fashion, models Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Lily Cole, Georgia Jagger and Stella Tennant were clad in gold designer duds by homegrown designers including Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry and Jonathan Saunders as they strut across the stage - all to the strains of what else but David Bowie's "Fashion."
And it wouldn't have been a celebration of English quirk without a nod to the country's great tradition of comedy. Monty Python alum Eric Idle almost stole the show as he enlisted everyone in a sing-along version of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from 1979s "Life of Brian."
Another banner moment occurred when The Spice Girls reunited to sing "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" all the while careening around the track atop glittering black taxis. Liam Gallagher followed with a performance of the Oasis hit "Wonderwall." In other Brit supergroup pairings, the remaining members of Queen enlisted the vocal prowess of Jesse J. to get the audience chanting the anthem "We Will Rock You."
Other entertainers on the night included celebrated "Right Here, Right Now" deejay Fat Boy Slim, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran who joined members of Pink Floyd for a version of "Wish You Were Here," Annie Lennox in full 1980s goth-get-up belting out "Little Bird" and comedian Russell Brand who made his entrance via a psychedelic bus and then proceeded to shout "I Am the Walrus." Jesse J was back on deck along with Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz -- the trio collaborating on a bass-thumping version of the Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancing."
Former teen heartthrobs Take That also regrouped for a performance. The '90s group sang "Rule the World" before prima ballerina Darcy Bussell and 300 dancers took to the stage as embodiments of the dying flames of the Olympic Cauldron. As their dance played out, a giant red Phoenix rose above the fire that at its extinguishing, signaled the official end of the London 2012 Games.
In a breathtaking finale, The Who belted out their hits "Baba O'Riley" and "My Generation" as the London sky was punctuated with erupting fireworks.
The celebration allowed competitors to let down their hair, mingle and momentarily forget sporting battles won and lost. It also provided host country Great Britain a final opportunity to show off its artistic accomplishments before handing the Olympic reigns to Sochi, Russia, the tourist resort area on the southwest coast of the Black Sea that will host the 2014 Winter Games.