LONDON (Reuters) – The United States topped the sporting world with 46 Olympic gold medals to China’s 38 at the end of 16 days of thrilling action that culminated with another captivating closing ceremony at the main stadium yesterday.
The stadium has seen some of the most spectacular moments of the 2012 Olympic Games, including Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt defending the 100, 200 and 4×100 metres titles he won in such spectacular fashion in Beijing, the latter in a world-beating time.
The Jamaicans spearheaded a strong showing from countries of the English-speaking Caribbean which captured a record overall total of 18 medals.
British supporters will also cherish memories of the venue where Somali-born runner Mo Farah won the 5,000 and 10,000 double to deafening roars and was celebrated as a symbol of the capital’s multi-culturalism.
The host nation won 29 golds to take third place in the rankings, its best result for 104 years which helped lift the nation out of the gloom of an economic recession temporarily buried in the inside pages of the newspapers.
“I will say history has been written by many athletes. The Games were absolutely fabulous. London has absolutely refreshed the Games,” International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge told reporters.
British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed, writing in succinct message on Twitter: “Britain delivered. We showed the world what we’re made of.”
On the last day of sporting action, the US basketball team including the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant downed Spain in a repeat of the final in Beijing in 2008.
The score of 107-100 reflected a closely fought contest played at breakneck speed in which Durant led the scoring with 30 points.
Earlier yesterday, Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda broke away from two Kenyan rivals to win the men’s marathon near Buckingham Palace before vast crowds, reflecting local enthusiasm for the Games despite doubts about the cost and potential disruption.
After running side by side with world champion Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang, the 23-year-old put in a powerful kick to shake off the Kenyans six kilometre from the end.
He crossed the finish line draped in the red, black and yellow Ugandan flag, which he knelt to kiss.
Also yesterday, Britain, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine picked up golds for boxing and Japan and the United States for wrestling.
The women’s modern pentathlon was the final medal to be decided, and Lithuanian Laura Asadauskaite beat Briton Sam Murray to the gold to round off London’s extravaganza of sport.
Many will remember London 2012 for the record-breaking exploits of American swimmer Michael Phelps, who took his life-time medal haul to 22, including 18 golds, making him the most decorated Olympian in history.
There was, of course, Bolt, the biggest name in athletics and a charismatic ambassador for sprinting.
After winning the 4×100 he went on to a London nightclub to delight dancing fans with a turn as a DJ, shouting out “I am a legend” to the packed dance-floor.
Britons may recall Andy Murray demolishing world number one Roger Federer at Wimbledon to win the men’s singles tennis gold, while Jessica Ennis, the “poster girl” of the Games, won the women’s heptathlon on the first “super Saturday.”
The home crowd made one final cheer yesterday at the closing ceremony, a celebration of British pop music and culture which artistic director Kim Gavin described as “the disco at the end of the wedding.”
The Spice Girls, The Who and George Michael were among the big names that performed at a concert titled “A Symphony of British Music” after which the Olympic Flame was extinguished and all eyes turn from London to 2016 hosts Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.