After three weeks of intense drama and spectacle highlighted by the remarkable exploits of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, there was very much a party atmosphere during the closing ceremony at the Olympic Games in Beijing. While the opening ceremony was marked by precision and organisation accompanied by the huge pressure of a three-billion-strong TV audience, the Games were wrapped up amid carnival scenes as the Olympic baton was handed on to London.
As with the opening ceremony, the Bird’s Nest stadium was packed to the rafters and a firework countdown marked the start of the evening’s festivities.
Another massive fireworks display whipped the crowd into a frenzy before video screens ran through some of the most memorable highlights of the previous three weeks’ competitions.
After the IOC dignitaries and Chinese president Hu Jintao were introduced to the crowd, performance artists, drummers and dancers put on a spellbinding and exuberant performance of colour and joie de vivre.
Flag carriers representing all the competing nations paraded onto the stadium floor before an exuberant dash of celebrating athletes entered the arena, the unmistakable figure of Chinese basketballer Yao Ming towering over the throng.
IOC president Jacques Rogge closed the Olympics officially and focus turned to the hosts of the 2012 showpiece – London.
The British flag was raised and the assembled choir sang God Save the Queen, the country’s national anthem. The Olympic flag was lowered and handed to London Mayor Boris Johnson before organisers of the 2012 Olympic Games were given the floor for an eight-minute showcase of what could be expected four years hence.
Performances by former Led Zeppelin rocker Jimmy Page and singer Leona Lewis featured as the self-styled ‘creative capital of the world’ put on a show involving the iconic red double decker bus, bicycles and commuters, all to the accompaniment of the London Symphony Orchestra.
The high point saw soccer superstar David Beckham launch footballs into the crowd of competitors and volunteers.
The Olympic flame was extinguished to the accompaniment of a duet by Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and Chinese soprano Song Zuying before another exhilarating burst of fireworks brought down the final curtain.
An unforgettable three weeks ended with attention turned towards the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and the next Summer Games in London 2012.