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I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms from the London 2012 Olympics. For more than 2 weeks (a lot longer if you include the Torch Relay) the UK has seemed a different, happier and more community-minded place. For these weeks we were a country of street parties, picnics in parks, crowds jostling each other during the rush hour in the best of humour, smiling mounted police riding along the edge of a huge crowd gathered for a road race, slapping hands with the lifted hands of spectator after spectator, completely deserted streets in housing estates that would suddenly ring to a simultaneous shout of YES! ... and it just went on and on.

Along with goodness-only-knows how many other people, on the final day I watched the BBC's coverage leading up to and through the Closing Ceremony, from which my screenshots below come.



The first set of screenshots is from the signing-off montage, which the BBC does so well at the end of major sporting events (e.g. Wimbledon):


People will always remember the magnificent Opening Ceremony that began it all


A new pride in Team GB, which we somehow all felt part of (one of the LED panels from the audience pixel system is partly visible here, see later)


These guys were really flying. Did you see the BMX events, at one of many superb new venues created for the Games?


Gemma Gibbons in tears after winning a silver medal in Judo (our first Judo medal for 12 years), crying "I love you Mum".

She lost her mother Jeanette to Leukemia - Jeanette encouraged her daughter to take up the sport at their local judo club when Gemma was just six years old.


Victoria Pendleton has just been beaten in the sprint final (Victoria's last ever race) by the Australian Anna Meares, her great friend and rival, in Victoria's last ever race... the whole spirit of the Games is right here


Tears of joy from Anna Meares at winning her gold medal for Australia


One of Team GB's (and Scotland's) greatest moments...


...and another


Woooohoooo...


Chris Hoy MBE, now our greatest Olympian, with plenty to smile about


London has been a more magical place than usual in the past few weeks


From the coverage leading up to the Closing Ceremony:


240,000 people applied to be volunteer Game Makers. 70,000 were accepted, and their contribution to the Games was incredible. They weren't all from the UK, either; the two white-haired ladies on the left, just interviewed by Clare Balding, were from Adelaide and Michigan (the latter, nearest the camera, is an ex-heptathlete). The volunteer that Claire is talking to has just decided to re-enlist for the Paralympics.

During this part of the broadcast we were also seeing congratulatiory Tweets coming in from many famous sporting names.

This was shot in Greenwich Park, a wonderful venue used for equestrian events overlooking the Olympic Park (now returned to the public)


From the Closing Ceremony itself (some great pictures from which will be found here ):


Athletes from all countries filling the arena, transforming it into one great party


John Lennon performing "Imagine", one of the theme songs for the evening, in a video restored by Yoko Ono especially for the event. He joined an incredibly moving performance of the song by the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir performing alongside the Liverpool Signing Choir (if you follow only one link in this post, please follow this one)


Representatives of the 70,000 volunteer Game Makers received a special award, to immense applause


The concert started with the spine-tingling harmonies that open Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" - and a gasp went up as the spectator area was transformed into a giant oscilloscope with complex sound patterns shown visually...


...courtesy of the amazing "audience pixels" system - a vast, stadium-wide video surface comprising a custom-built 9-pixel LED panel mounted between every one of the stadium's seats (no still picture can do justice to it), whose wiring was an engineering feat in itself (some great pictures of the system in use will be found here)...


...Annie Lennox approaching the camera in the prow of a ship, with the audience pixel system in full use behind her


The Spice Girls, still as popular as ever, performing as a quintet probably for the last time (photos)


Freddie Mercury leading the enthusiastically-responding audience from beyond the grave...


...followed by Brian May CBE of Queen in a solo performance that (IMO) knocked the socks off any of the other rock music performed on this evening



Sebastian Coe, former great athlete and the father of these Games, making one of the two closing speeches (the other from President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, one of our favourite Frenchmen).

Lord Coe's speech was full of pride for the London 2012 achievement and thanks for everyone that contributed to it, including the team that built the venue...


... and he gave special thanks to the volunteer Game Makers, who got a long standing ovation from the huge crowd (and to the many members of the armed forces and police who kept the games safe discreetly and with great humour, which also drew a huge cheer)


A sad moment as the flames in that wonderful cauldron were slowly extinguished (but I loved the symbolic Phoenix)...



...leaving us with so much to celebrate, not least the all-important Legacy that this Games has focused on so strongly


If I had the power, I would give a gold medal to everyone who brought these Games about, and to everyone who made them such a wonderful occasion (including the BBC commentary team). And I would bring down a horrible pox on everyone (including some of the BBC news team) who cast every kind of doubt on London 2012 before it happened (and even during it), constantly reporting as "news" opinions about forthcoming disasters and bad organisation that failed completely to materialise.

A great part of the achievement of the people who bid for and mounted the Games was overcoming the miserable doom-sayers, who between them have probably never created anything worthwile in their entire lives. Such people talk about "costs" when others talk about "achievements" and "earnings". No doubt they will find every reason why the Olympic Legacy won't happen properly - and I bet that they will be just as wrong.

This was indeed the greatest party on the planet. I hope that people from other countries enjoyed it as much as we did!