London 2012 Olympics: A musical farewell to the world at the closing ceremony

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Last night's closing ceremony lacked the wonder of Danny Boyle's extravaganza. But nobody cared. By Cahal Milmo and Jerome Taylor

After 16 days of sporting heroism which made London the centre of the world, the curtain fell on the Olympics last night with a display of exuberant – at times anarchic – revelry that had but one message: "Goodbye world, we hope you had as good a time as we did. Now let's dance."

With 29 gold medals – the last arriving just hours before the grand finale in the Olympic Stadium – reflecting the glory of the best performance by a British team in 104 years, the Closing Ceremony delivered the grandest of grand hurrahs for London 2012.

From a rendition of "God Save the Queen" introduced by Timothy Spall playing Winston Churchill emerging from a miniaturised Big Ben, to Russell Brand on top of a trippy bus and Freddie Mercury's voice delivering "Bohemian Rhapsody" from beyond the grave, this was Britain showing that as well as putting on the greatest show on earth, it can party too.

Just as Danny Boyle's opening jamboree had enthralled the nation with his heady cocktail of the sublime, a skydiving monarch and Mr Bean, so artistic director Kim Gavin, a ballet dancer turned stadium tour impresario, provided a sumptuous feast of British creativity and eccentricity.

Gone was the didactic splendour of the Opening Ceremony with its giant NHS beds and Satanic Mills, Jarrow marchers and Sir Tim Berners Lee. This was all about having fun and, after putting on an unquestionably fine Games, London had reason to celebrate.

The Who, those titans of universally recognised but uniquely British pop, were due to bring the three-hour performance to a climax with a thundering rendition of "My Generation".

A week after his wife lost their daughter, Poppy, in a still birth, Take That's Gary Barlow was due to perform "Rule the World" with the band in a dramatic sequence leading to the extinguishing of the Olympic Flame.

But, reserving the right of this host nation to bamboozle the rest of the planet, there was also the downright wacky. The Reliant Robin immortalised in the classic comedy Only Fools and Horses made an explosive appearance followed by the sight of 160 Household Guards marching behind Madness while playing an instrumental version of Blur's "Parklife".

And do not even mention the multi-coloured octopus and the taxi ballet.

Gavin, speaking before the ceremony, said: "We wanted to host a celebration of all that's good about London, British people, our music and our culture. And capture the spirit that's inspired so much global creativity over the past 50 years."

Watched by dignitaries including Prince Harry, representing his grandmother, and Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, the extravaganza began with a shout of "It's nine o'clock" from the capacity 80,000 crowd and Scottish R'*'B singer Emeli Sande on a purposely monochrome stage belting out her anthem to success "Read All About It" from the back of a rubbish truck.

And then it ended. Speeches from London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe and Jacques Rogge heralded the official close of the Games as Thomas Heatherwick's copper petal cauldron was finally extinguished after 16 days of constant burning. The only thing left to do was sing away the end of the night and that honour was given to The Who accompanied by the ballerina Darcey Bussell. Goodbye world. Thanks for coming.

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