London Olympics closes with a celebrity spectacular
But the crowd gave Olympic volunteers a bigger cheer than Russell Brand miming on a camper van
THANK GOD for Anthony Joshua. Were it for not for his gold in the final of the super heavyweight boxing the enduring image of the last day of the XXX Olympiad might well have been that of Russell Brand dressed as Willy Wonka singing ‘I Am the Walrus' from atop a psychedelic camper van.
It's fair to say that the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics failed to hit the heights of Danny Boyle's stupendous Opening Ceremony 16 days earlier. Instead of symbolism we got celebrity - and mostly mediocre ones at that.
If we're hoping that the legacy of these Games will be an end to the inanity of talentless non-entities such as Brand and One Direction it seems we still have a long way to go. Not that the 80,000 crowd were fooled by director Kim Gavin's limp spectacle. Who got the biggest cheer of the night? The Spice Girls? Kate Moss? Jessie J?
In fact it went to the half a dozen volunteers who were called up on stage to receive bouquets of flowers from six athletes as a thank you for all the hard work they and the rest of their 70,000 colleagues had performed during the Olympics. It was one of the few class acts of the night.
The Queen – like most of the big names of the British music scene – had wisely decided to give the event a wide berth, instead delegating Prince Harry to represent the Royal Family. How he wished he must have been over at Hyde Park where Blur, The Specials and New Order were showing the true face of British music.
But despite the disappointing end to the London Olympics, Team GB finished the Games on a high, winning three more medals on Sunday, including Joshua's gold in the ring to finish third in the overall medal table.
The 22-year-old Joshua overcame the reigning champion, Italy's Roberto Cammarelle, in the super-heavyweight final after going into the third and final round three points behind. But the Londoner threw some fierce shots in the final three minutes to snatch gold from the Italian. Cammarelle later appealed the decision but lost and Joshua mounted the podium to collect Britain's 29th gold of the Games.
Earlier in the day Fred Evans had won silver in the welterweight division as Britain enjoyed its finest Olympics in the ring since 1920. And the honour of winning the last of Team GB's 65 medals went to Samantha Murray in the modern pentathlon. The 22-year-old finished behind Lithuania's Laura Asadauskaite to take silver with Yane Marques of Brazil claiming bronze. It was the final event of the London Games and perhaps fitting that the last medal should be won by a woman whose country will host the next Olympics in Rio.
"If you have a goal, if there's anything you want to achieve in life, don't let anybody get in your way," said Murray, who finished well ahead of her compatriot, world champion Mhairi Spence.
Murray's silver was the 17th of the Games for Team GB which, along with the 29 golds and 19 bronzes, represent Britain's best haul at an Olympics since 1908. And to think that it was only 16 years ago, at the Atlanta Games, when Team GB finished 36th in the medal table (behind Ireland and Algeria) with one gold, eight silvers and 15 bronzes.
The challenge now for British sport is to build on the success of the 2012 Olympics and ensure that at the 2028 Games they are not back to where they were in Atlanta. That will only be achieved by government funding and the sort of bloody-minded determination shown by Joshua and Murray on Sunday.
Let's hope these Games have truly inspired a generation to dream of standing on a podium with a gold medal round their necks, and not on top of a camper van singing ‘I Am the Walrus'.