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All the World’s a Stage

By Peggy Shinn | Aug. 12, 2012, 7 p.m. (ET)

LONDON — “Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears,” read Timothy Spall, best known as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies, reciting part of Shakespeare’s The Tempest as Winston Churchill standing atop Big Ben (got all that?).

And twangling they did.

On a warm summer night, after Big Ben struck nine o’clock, 80,000+ people in Olympic Stadium cheered and then rocked to a rapid-fire succession of bands — from Madness to One Direction to Ray Davies singing his 1960s hit “Waterloo Sunset” — as London bid adieu to the Olympic Games and the athletes of the 2012 Games.

Such stuff as dreams were made on.

The band Madness started with “Our House,” and it really was madness. Dancers mixed with 160 Guards from the Household Division Ceremonial State Band in full regalia.

The U.S. flag bearer, Bryshon Nellum, a silver medalist in the men’s 4x400 who was shot in the legs while a freshman at USC, paraded into the Stadium along with the other countries’ flag bearers, followed by the 10,000+ athletes (10,490 including flag bearers).

“Closing Ceremonies!!!” tweeted Team USA water polo star Maggie Steffens. “I can't believe it's the end :) but also the beginning.”

For 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, it was the first time she had ever set foot in an Olympic Stadium. The three-time Olympian had skipped the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the 2004 and 2008 Games.

After the presentation of the men’s marathon medals, the party ramped up to a stew of British music by legends past and present. John Lennon beamed in on the big TV monitors with “Imagine,” while a helicopter thwapping disturbingly overhead and performers formed a mold of his face from 101 fragments.

Then George Michael, Annie Lennox, Ed Sheeran playing Pink Floyd, Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, and Taio Cruz turned the stadium into a pulsating sound stage punctuated by icons of British culture: Rolls Royces, supermodels, and black taxis carrying, of all things, the Spice Girls together again for this one night.

“The spice girls just made my Olympics complete!” tweeted Team USA swimmer Jessica Hardy. “I just geeked out so bad being 5ft away while they sang!”

“That mixture of street culture, music, fashion and sport, these are the ways working class kids have come through and become something in the world,” said Lennox.

But the British can’t take themselves too seriously, so why not have a psychedelic bus morph into a neon plastic cephalopod? And have Monty Python’s Eric Idle sing an uncensored version of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”?

The “symphony” (cacophony?) ended with a ghostly image of Freddy Mercury on giant mid-stadium monitors doing his “deyo, deyo” call and response, which segued into former Queen band members playing “We Will Rock You.”

Then the passing of the torch to Rio de Janeiro with, what else? Samba music and a carnival atmosphere.

In the final closing, Sebastian Coe, the London Organizing Committee’s chairman, said, “Our Opening Ceremony proclaimed that these Games were for everyone. At our Closing Ceremony, we can say that these were a Games by everyone.”

“On this last day, I can finish with these words,” he concluded. “When our time came, Britain, we did it right. Thank you.”

IOC President Jacques Rogues declared the 2012 Olympics “happy and glorious.”

As the torch blossomed to its 204 separate flames, their final minutes before being extinguished, a phoenix burned overhead — emblematic of what these Games have done to this former abandoned and desolate industrial part of London.

And then … The Who sent the 2012 Olympics off with a bang. “My Generation” to inspire a generation.

Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.