What began with a single flame 114 days ago last night became a conflagration of fire, music and magnificent sporting memory as the lights were brought down on London 2012 with the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympics.
The Cauldron that burned in the Olympic Stadium since it was lit with the flame from Mount Olympus in May was extinguished at the climax of a spectacular show that mixed Coldplay, Jay-Z and Rihanna with a baroque – at times downright grungy – display of airborne motorbikes, snowstorms and human fireflies.
At centre stage were many of the 4,200 athletes whose endeavour in the last 12 days has proven that the Paralympics is a stage for elite sport regardless of body shape.
London 2012 chief Lord Coe, said: "It has been fantastic. I never really doubted that the Paralympic Games would be anything other than a show-stopper."
The athletes were joined by wounded personnel from the armed services. There can have been few unfurlings of the Union Flag more extraordinary than that by Captain Luke Sinnott. The 32-year-old lost both legs and his right arm in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. It did not prevent the keen sailor, who hopes to compete in Rio 2016, from scaling the flag pole.
Kim Gavin, the artistic director, said: "Our Festival of the Flame pays tribute to the gatherings that infuse the spirit of our nation, drawing on the ever-changing seasons... and celebrating ancient and modern traditions."
Whereas Middle England might have raised its eyebrows at Boyle's NHS beds, there would have been spluttering into cups of cocoa last night with the beatnik flavour of last night's Pagan pageantry and Traveller chic. What unfolded before the 80,000 capacity audience was something of a retro junk yard son et lumière with a distinct dash of steam punk. Prince Edward was borne into the stadium in a gangster chic 1930s sedan cabriolet fashioned from a military vehicle used in Afghanistan and Rihanna entered on a ship partly made from iron salvaged from the remains of Brighton's West Pier.
Coldplay provided the backdrop to a succession of set pieces designed to represent seasons and the Paralympian principles of "mind, body, spirit". But it was always going to be the absence of flame that defined the night. Thomas Heatherwick's Cauldron was extinguished, each of its petals to wend their way to the nations that competed.
London 2012, this glorious six-week carnival, has ended. As Mr Gavin put it: "Last one to leave the Stadium, please turn off the lights."
The 1,300 dancers, singers and players included the Candoco Dance Company, Circus Space and the British Paraorchestra – all showcasing disabled performers.Reuse content