LONDON -- That's a wrap. The 2012 Summer Olympics ended on a warm Sunday night in Olympic Stadium with a spicy tribute to all things English.
By most accounts, London closed another chapter on its grand Olympic history by holding compelling competition without outside distractions, something that has not happened since 1992 in Barcelona.
"These were happy and glorious Games," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said in a closing speech.
London organizers handed the baton to Rio de Janeiro during a colorful closing ceremony, hoping for a smooth exchange as the traveling international sports festival heads to a Latin American country for the first time since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
It's Samba Time.
For the 10,490 athletes who toiled and triumphed over the past two weeks, it was time to let loose after years of training to reach the pinnacle of their respective sports.
Olympic organizers trotted out a dream team of performers to help them commemorate the occasion: Ray Davies of the Kinks, Annie Lennox, Kate Moss, the Pet Shop Boys, Queen, the Spice Girls and The Who.
They also got a bit campy, including a skit with a colorful plastic octopus. After all, nothing says "Higher, Faster, Stronger" quite like a psychedelic cephalopod.
Few had reason to dance as much as Americans, who, despite predictions of their demise, rose to the podium more than any country over the past 16 days. The
It became a point of contention when Seb Coe, London's organizing committee leader, predicted China would leave England atop the chart.
"The only thing Seb got slightly wrong was that he predicted we would come behind China in the medal count," said Scott Blackmun, U.S. Olympic Committee executive director. "I told him in April we were going to work very hard to prove him wrong, so I'm very happy about that."
It was the most gold medals won by a U.S. team on foreign soil.
Bay Area athletes did their part, with 36 winning medals for the United States. Former Cal swim star Dana Vollmer led the way with three gold medals, while another former Bears swimmer, Nathan Adrian, also won three medals.
Cal athletes got 17 medals, tying the school record set in 2008. Stanford had 16 medals.
"We like to come in first, and there is nothing wrong with that," USOC board Chairman Larry Probst said.
China was second in overall medals and gold medals, followed by Russia. Host Great Britain enjoyed a majestic time with its
It has left the nation intoxicated with sporting feats and signals what's in store in Brazil, which also is playing host to the 2014 World Cup.
Indelible faces often surface during Olympic competition, but the London Games are going to be mostly remembered for two men who did it twice: American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
By land or by water, they commanded attention every time they entered their domain. Phelps won six medals to finish his career with 22 -- the most ever by any Olympian.
Bolt breezed through the 100- and 200-meter sprints and anchored a world-record 400-meter relay team in the final event on the track.
Talk about making an exit.
The animated Jamaican likes to showboat after dominating victories and keep folks guessing about whether it was his final time on the Olympic stage. His antics have generated criticism from the highest steps of Mount Olympus, where the IOC's Rogge has expressed his displeasure.
"What else do I need to do to prove myself as a legend?" Bolt asked after Jamaica won the relay in 36.84, the first quartet under 37 seconds. "I've won both events twice at the Olympics. I've won world championship gold medals, I've broken world records many times, so next time you see him (Rogge), I think you should ask him what Usain needs to do. I don't know what else to do, really."
In the eyes of his fans, the answer is a simple "nothing."
While Bolt went out with a flair, Phelps sent a declarative "that's it," after his final victory.
With the men stepping aside, the London Games ushered in the next generation of sporting celebrities such as American swimmer Missy Franklin, sprightly gymnast Gabby Douglas and former Cal soccer star Alex Morgan.
All of them hope to partake in what promises to be an unforgettable winter Carnival in the Southern Hemisphere in four years.
But for one final gathering inside Olympic Stadium, the athletes collectively set aside their deep-seated competitive spirits to reflect on the accomplishments.
"We all go out together," Australian flag bearer Steve Hooker said.
They went out waving colorful flags of their respective countries while taking a victory trot around the track. Some went out with medals. Others just went out.
In this final, lingering moment it didn't matter.
They all left London with smiles.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him at http://twitter.com/elliottalmond.