LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: A replica Big Ben is seen during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 12, 2012 in London, England.
The athletes’ entrance
In a wonderfully intimate touch, the Olympic athletes entered through the crowd, with many of them wearing their medals and high-fiving spectators on the way. Not only felt like a genuine celebration, but offered the opportunity for fans to join in the party.
Look, kids: Big Ben!
As odd as the replica was of the English countryside (complete with goats), that’s how sublime the replica of London’s skyline was. From Big Ben to the Eye, the backdrop to these games was on full display during the farewell to the Olympics.
British beats, take two
The opening ceremony was an homage to British rock 'n' roll. And the closing ceremony was no different. Madness. Pet Shop Boys. Ray Davies of the Kinks (pictured). The Who. Yet another reminder of England’s musical history. Even the Spice Girls.
Churchill in the house
Actor Timothy Spall of "Harry Potter" fame made an appearance as Winston Churchill, reciting the same portion of "The Tempest" that actor Kenneth Branagh read during the opening ceremony. A nice nod to Britain’s history, while also a fitting reference to the games’ opening stanza.
For daredevil lovers, this closing ceremony had a bit of it all: flying bicyclists, tight-rope walking and, oh yeah, "The Rocket Man," aka Chachi Valencia. Here, he prepares to be shot out of a cannon, 165 feet into the air.
You can only 'Imagine'
The Liverpool Signing Choir dressed in white, stood in front of the Olympic cauldron, singing John Lennon’s "Imagine." The children's choir then gave way to footage of Lennon joining in. Beautifully moving and somehow fitting with the spirit of the games.
Never thought you'd see all the Spice Girls together on stage at the same time again? Posh, Ginger, Baby, Sporty and Scary gave us what we wanted ... what we really, really wanted. Here's hoping the closing ceremony spiced up your life.
The meaning of life
Monty Python was conspicuously absent from the opening ceremony, but the legendary comedy troupe made up for it Sunday night. Eric Idle (pictured, center-left) sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" while surrounded by nuns on roller blades and supermodels dressed as angels.
You've gotta give credit to Great Britain's royal family. They've been out in force for the Olympics, with Kate Middleton (at right) seemingly attending every single event ... even handball. Prince Harry (left) was no slouch either, beaming with pride during much of the closing ceremony. It was a good Olympic Games for the monarchy.
Blame it on Rio
If we weren’t excited before about Rio 2016 (and given we just spent 16 days covering the London games, we really weren’t all that pumped), we are now. In a moving symbolic gesture, London Mayor Boris Johnson (far left) and IOC president Jacques Rogge (center) passed the Olympic flag to Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, who waved the banner proudly for his city and country.
Naomi Campbell (third from right) and other lovely ladies. Need we say more?
Yes sir, Sebastian
After 17 days of typical British reserve (peppered with some of the nation’s trademark pessimism), London Organizing Committee president Sebastian Coe (pictured at far right) gave the nation well-deserved praise, saying, “When our time came, Britain, we did it right. Thank you.”
London spared no expense with the fireworks Sunday. Exhibit A: This massive burning phoenix, which hovered above the Olympic cauldron and descended into the stadium, bearing ballerina Darcey Bussell. No shortage of drama here.
Once in a generation
The Who closed out a three-hour-plus tribute to the history of British music with "My Generation" as fireworks illuminated all of Olympic Park. A fitting end to a great show. Thank you, London.