London is preparing to close out a two-week festival of sports in Olympic style, with a thunderous celebration of British music, from the classical compositions of Elgar to the classic rock of The Who.
A star-studded closing ceremony Sunday night (4 p.m. ET) will be long on fun — a dancing, stomping, psychedelic exaltation of what Britain does best, exporting a head-shaking amount of talent to the world.
The spectacle, which artistic director Kim Gavin promises will be ”the best after-show party that’s ever been,” will have something for everyone — the Spice Girls, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Muse and many, many other stars mixed in.
There’ll be plenty of fireworks and colored lights, acrobats, gymnasts, drummers, supermodels and other surprises to keep the crowd — and a television audience of tens of millions — entertained late into the night.
The best seats are for the 10,800 Olympic athletes, who will march in as one and form what Gavin has described as a human mosh pit on the field. Queen Elizabeth II, who made a memorable mock parachute entrance at the opening ceremony, will be on hand.
Eight minutes have been turned over to Brazil, host of the 2016 Rio Games, which promises an explosion of samba, sequins and Latin cool. Following tradition, London Mayor Boris Johnson will hand the Olympic flag off to his Rio counterpart.
There will also be speeches by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe, and the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.
What a way to end a games far more successful than many Londoners expected. Security woes were overcome, traffic and transportation nightmares never materialized, and Britain had its biggest medal haul since 1908.
The United States was poised to edge China in both the gold medal and total medal standings, recapturing the gold-medal title it lost four years ago, but Britain will finish third in golds.
And while the games may have lacked some of the drama and grandeur of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, there were some unforgettable moments.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt became an Olympic legend by repeating as champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. Michael Phelps ended his long career as the most decorated Olympian in history. British favorite daughter Jessica Ennis became a global phenomenon with her victory in the heptathlon.
Female athletes took center stage in a way they never had before. American gymnast Gabby Douglas soared to gold, the U.S. soccer team’s made a dramatic march to the championship. Packed houses that turned out to watch the new event of women’s boxing. And women competed for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei took part for the first time.
And then there was Oscar Pistorious, the double-amputee from South Africa running on carbon-fiber blades, who didn’t win a medal but nonetheless left a champion. And sprinter Manteo Mitchell, who completed his leg of the 4×400 relay semifinal on a broken leg, allowing his team to qualify and win silver.
Coe refused to anoint the games ”the best ever,” in the phrase former International Olympic Committee chief Juan Antonio Samaranch used to describe almost every games. But he declared himself ”very, very pleased.”
He said the closing ceremony didn’t aim to be profound, not even the irreverent romp through British history offered by Danny Boyle’s $42 million spectacle on opening night.
The theme for the close, Coe said, could be summed up in three words. ”Party. Party. Party.”
Organizers tried to keep the ceremony under wraps, but details leaked out in the British media. The Who, George Michael, Muse and Ed Sheeran have all said they will take part in the show, which will include performances of 30 British hit singles from the past five decades — whittled by Gavin from a list of 1,000 songs. Annie Lennox, Pet Shop Boys, and Fatboy Slim will also be there to get people dancing.
Gavin said Saturday the show would open with a tribute to the ”cacophony” of London life, with a soundtrack ranging from the late Edward Elgar, composer of the ”Pomp and Circumstance” march, to The Kinks’ ”Waterloo Sunset.” Frontman Ray Davies is expected to perform the 1960s song, a love letter to London.
Details emerged through tips and photos coming out of the rehearsal venue, an old car plant in east London. While creators of the opening ceremony could rehearse for weeks inside the stadium, Gavin and his team had less than a day between the end of track and field competition and Sunday’s ceremony. Not a lot of time to practice a show with multiple sets, pyrotechnics and 3,500 volunteer performers.
The Spice Girls were photographed dancing atop black London taxis, so a rendition of their biggest hit, ”Wannabe,” seems likely. So does an appearance by surviving members of Queen, whose ”We Will Rock You” has been ever-present at the games.
Some athletes who skipped the opening ceremony in order to rest for upcoming competitions said they wouldn’t miss the closing extravaganza for the world.
”I am so excited,” said American teen sensation Missy Franklin, who took home five swimming medals, including four golds. ”I think it is the perfect way to end the entire journey.”
Added Brenda Villa, a member of the gold-winning U.S. water polo team: ”We just want to have fun and kind of put an end to this magical tournament.”