After all those medals, it was always going to be hard to bring the focus back from sporting to musical achievement. The Olympic Closing Ceremony, like the Games before it, was equal parts triumph and despair.
There were times to punch the air, Muse playing their official London 2012 song Survival as though the world was ending, Fatboy Slim pretending to DJ on top of an enormous octopus, the Pet Shop Boys adding some much needed weirdness through the medium of funny hats. There were also times to wipe away a tear.
Gary Barlow managed to lead Take That in song just over a week after he and his wife lost a baby. Elbow were fabulous, playing their familiar anthem of sporting celebration, One Day Like This, and a newer one in the same vein, Open Arms, as the athletes flooded into the stadium to fill a Damien Hirst Union Jack with the colours of every nation.
But after so much speculation about the line-up, there was disappointment too. Kate Bush! No, it’s someone playing a Kate Bush CD. David Bowie! Nope, it’s some supermodels standing in front of some photos of him. When Ed Sheeran promised to play Wish You Were Here with Pink Floyd, it turns out he meant the drummer Nick Mason and one of The Feeling. At least The Who turned up to follow the speeches, after they’d been impersonated by Kaiser Chiefs earlier on.
This “Symphony of British Music” couldn’t help but remind us how many greats were missing. We got Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye, not Oasis, a brass band Blur while they played in Hyde Park, endless Beatles tunes in absentia, and though Emeli Sandé was solid in the big ballad slot, she was no Adele. Some of the most enthusiastic cheers of the night came for big screen appearances by Freddie Mercury and John Lennon.
Jessie J was certainly available, appearing on so many songs that it would have been no surprise if she’d returned to do the Greek national anthem. The Spice Girls also cleared their busy schedules for a jolly ride around on some black cab roofs, a spectacle that got even Boris Johnson dancing.
The taxis were one part of a range of spectacles showing London at its best, from acrobats scaling the Gherkin to Ray Davies singing Waterloo Sunset beside a moving Thames. The sights, if not all of the sounds, were another resounding endorsement of the host city’s gold standard Games.