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London 2012 closing ceremony ends a 'happy and glorious' Olympics

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But the closing ceremonies generally failed to find the whimsy or the visceral honesty of the opening ceremonies, which captured something more deeply British, instead contenting themselves with essentially being a "greatest hits" collection – the world's most expensive episode of "Britain's Got Talent."

As desserts go, it was perhaps a bit too much treacle. But that is not what the world will remember from these Olympics. It will remember what it felt like, for a little more than a fortnight, to be made a part of the happy few on this small island – this blessed plot – and what a joy that was.

"These were happy and glorious Games," said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the closing ceremonies, quoting a line from the British national anthem.

And he was right.

Breathing space 

In the end, the IOC's decision to award the Olympics to London – to a city that has 1,000 years of history, that has ruled over an empire upon which the sun never set, and which has been a world hub of finance, culture, and politics since well before there was a modern Olympics – was a masterstroke. At no point since the turn of the century have the Olympics been held in a place that was so palpably content with itself.

That lent the Games something they have not had for some time – and which made the London Olympics so welcome. Breathing space. Gold medals were not statements of global hegemony, they were just reasons for the home crowd to cheer a bit louder. Olympic venues were not infused with a nation's sense of its own destiny. In places, the operation had the feeling of a giant Erector Set.

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