London 2012: the best party in the history of mankind?
Curtain comes down on a summer of sport as Paralympics closes with spectacular ceremony
THE CURTAIN came down on an unforgettable summer of sport in London last night with the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games.
Kim Gavin's spectacular followed in the footsteps of the three previous events at the Olympic stadium in Stratford. "The fourth and final London ceremony, entitled Festival of the Flame and linked to its three predecessors by Shakespeare's The Tempest, focused on Britain's pagan traditions, influenced by harvest and fire, that have evolved into modern-day carnivals of film, comedy and literature," said The Times.
Featuring steampunk costumes, metallic dinosaurs and characters called Dreamers, Wind Gremlins and Fireflies played by dancers and acrobats, the show was "as mad as it was marvellous" according to the Metro.
Music was provided by Coldplay, who performed on a stage in the shape of a sundial in the middle of the stadium, and were joined by Rihanna and rap superstar Jay-Z.
"Like the Olympic curtain-dropper, this one imitated the music festivals that pepper the British summer landscape. When the sport stops here, out comes the jukebox. London 2012 has turned even Britain’s great musical industry into a support act," stated The Daily Telegraph.
The ceremony was a "mix [of] surreal celebration of all that had been achieved with the melancholia of time passing," noted The Guardian, which also said that the 'pixels' in the crowd were once again the stars of the show as they "effectively turned the entire seating bowl into a giant video screen".
Even the Daily Mail was impressed. "Forget all the political controversy that followed the opening ceremony of the Games proper, artistic director Kim Gavin’s show was unashamedly melodramatic theatre at its British best," it purred.
"At the heart of the extravaganza were many of the 4,200 athletes whose endeavour has proven once and for all that the Paralympics is a stage for elite sport regardless of body shape," said The Independent. David Weir and Sarah Storey, who won four golds each, carried the British flag and there were poignant scenes as the Paralympic flame was extinguished by two other stars, swimmer Ellie Simmonds and sprinter Jonnie Peacock.
Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, declared that the Games had been "unique" and proclaimed them to have been "the greatest Paralympics ever". Lord Coe, the chairman of London 2012 said the entire summer's events had been stamped with the words "made in Britain".
It has been quite a summer and one that appears to have taken its toll on Times columnist Simon Barnes, who went into hyperbolic overdrive as he summed up the events of the last few weeks.
"It wasn't the finest summer of sport we have ever known: it was much better than that," he raved. "It was the finest celebration of humanity in a quarter of a million years of our existence. It was the best party in the history of the human race."
Prime Minister David Cameron was slightly more circumspect and even cautioned that now it is all over "the spirit will fade a little". Unlike Barnes, he was even able to find a parallel event in human history.
"The Olympics and the Paralympics has given us all a tremendous lift and memories we will be talking about for generations to come," he said. "I believe it will be something like 1966, something that we will tell our children and then their children about for years to come."