Olympics newsletter

Article

Baton passed to London for 2012

Peter Simpson
August 25,2008

London Mayor Boris Johnson waves the Olympic flag and promises to deliver a “fantabulous Olympics” in 2012.   Photo: Reuters

It started with the pips to signal Greenwich Mean Time - and then bus 2012 drove down its own congestion-free commuter lane and into the "Bird's Nest". The double-decker bus was flanked by Team GB champion cyclists Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Shanaze Reade - an environmental message whizzing by on two wheels.

"Londoners" rush to catch a double-decker bus in the Bird's Nest stadium as Britain celebrates the beginning of its countdown to the 2012 Games.   Photo: Reuters
Britain arrived on time for its eight-minute closing ceremony slot to signal the countdown to the 2012 Olympics and boldly state what it has in mind for its curtain-raiser.

Commuters carrying that icon of a wet London Monday morning - umbrellas - stood characteristically with heads in newspapers, waiting patiently in the bus queue. The London Transport workhorse pulled up, and the queue, consisting of the contemporary dance troupe CandoCo, burst into life.

Turfs of English lawn then unfolded down the side of the bus, with the roof converting into a stage. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and British singer Leona Lewis appeared and performed a version of the band's hit Whole Lotta Love.

Guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Leona Lewis bring some rock 'n' roll to the Bird's Nest for the closing ceremony.   Photo: Reuters

Many a homesick Briton in the crowd - perhaps even Prime Minister Gordon Brown - must have felt the urge to pump their feet as Page made even the man-sized fuwas forget their strictly rehearsed routine and do a jig.

Swinging London leapt into action, and the dancers' twists and jives offered a glimpse of the future, which Britain hopes will play out under a dry summer night in four years' time. Although its slot to show off was modest, London made the most of every second. The theatrics were informal, conveying a promise of a youthful, multicultural and fun Olympics in four years, where athletes and fans will be able to let their hair down and express themselves.

The audience whooped with delight when soccer star David Beckham rose out of the bus to kick a ball into the crowd.

London Mayor Boris Johnson managed to tangle the Olympic flag during one swing of the pole - but he recovered, though his face turned as red as the fireworks.

Soccer player David Beckham gets a kick out of the closing ceremony as London takes the baton from Beijing for the next Olympics.   Photo: AFP
Last night Britons were celebrating not only London's future role as host, but also a breakthrough performance in China by their athletes, completing their best Olympics in a century with 19 gold medals.

Nearly 8,200km away, outside Buckingham Palace, about 40,000 people, including record-breaking swimmer Michael Phelps, watched a live big-screen performance of the show. "Every city has had its big twist on the games, what they have that's different to every other country," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing what it is and how this city develops."

London 2012 deputy chairman Keith Mills said: "The eyes of the world have been on Beijing for the last two weeks ... For a short amount of time today, however, the world stopped and considered what's coming next."

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Associated Press

Copyright ©2008 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.