40,000 say let's party like it's 2012

Amol Rajan
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:44

The Olympic spirit coursed through a capital drenched first in rain and then in sunshine yesterday, as the mantle of Olympic City passed from Beijing to London.

Three years, one month, and eighteen days after Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee opened an envelope in front of watching billions and uttered the two syllables that said London – not Paris, or Madrid, or Moscow, or New York – would host the Games in 2012, the Mall thronged with those keen to experience the historic moment when the British capital's four-year reign began.

An estimated 40,000 people queued through incessant morning drizzle that had become ominously heavier just as proceedings began at midday. Huge cheers erupted as the impatient crowd surged on to the pink tarmac lining the path from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.

On either side of the Mall quintessentially English produce, from fish and chips to fruit scones and small Union Jack flags, sated the appetites of the throng. At 12.30, bellowing out from a vast network of speakers, the unmistakably Welsh tones of soprano Katherine Jenkins'rendition of Puccini's Nessun Dorma.

The Independent's columnist Claudia Winkleman introduced live TV coverage of the event with London's peculiar, still unfathomable logo emblazoned across giant screens.

With sunshine threatening to break through, angst-ridden sounds of rock band McFly briefly turned the scene into a rave. Nobody, however, could detract from the most anticipated moment of the day, for 14.00 was Boris o'clock. When London's bumbling blond bombshell of a Mayor stepped into the Bird's Nest for his golden moment, to the loudest cheer of the ceremony.

In the shadow of Buckingham Palace, with noise escalating to accompany each of Johnson's four waves of the flag, there was a tangible sense of relief as the party kicked into a higher gear.

The only disappointment was that the Queen wasn't at home to share the fun. Most of those who did make it seemed to agree that she ought not to have missed out.

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