Curtain falls on 'glorious' London Games
A flaming phoenix flies above the Olympic flame during the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 12. Photo: Reuters
The London Olympics closed in a blaze of music and colour after a two-week sporting festival that electrified the host nation and was watched by billions around the world.
Olympics President Jacques Rogge praised the Games as "happy and glorious" before the sporting spectacular was brought to a close in a three-hour ceremony rounded out with a performance from British rock band The Who.
"Through your commitment to fair play, your respect for opponents, and your grace in defeat as well as in victory, you have earned the right to be called Olympians," Rogge said. "These were happy and glorious Games."
The ceremony also saw the handover of the Olympic flag to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, a symbolic transfer which launches the four-year countdown to the 2016 Games to be held in the Brazilian city.
The United States topped the medals table with 46 golds, eight ahead of China, while Britain had 29 -- their best since 1904. It was the first Games where every team had at least one female athlete.
After 16 full days of competition, 302 Olympic titles were handed out and 46 world records were broken. More than seven million fans came out to watch Olympic events, and Bolt's 200m win generated a record 80,000 tweets a minute.
"Today was the closing of a wonderful Games in a wonderful city. We lit the flame and we lit up the world," said Games chief Sebastian Coe.
The Games witnessed the sensational moment when Jamaica's sprinter Usian Bolt smashed the world record, becoming the first athlete to win both the 100m and 200m in consecutive Games.
It also witnessed the tears when American swimmer Michael Phelps announced his retirement after becoming the most decorated Olympian with a total of 22 Olympic medals, out of which four gold medals and two silvers were won in London.
Britain's Chris Hoy, competing in his fourth Games, grabbed two golds of the cycling track race in London. Hoy's tears as he received his sixth gold medal were described by Rogge as a "defining image" of the Games.
For millions of Chinese, London also saw the heartbreaking moment as China's hurdler Liu Xiang limped down the track toward the finish line.
Four years ago after an Achilles injury denied Liu the chance of defending his Olympic 110m hurdles title in Beijing, tragedy struck again in London as the 2004 champion crashed into the first obstacle and fell to the track in his opening heat.
A new generation of heroes also step into the spotlight in London.
Chinese swimmer Sun Yang broke his own world record to make it a golden double at the London Olympics. British distance runner Mo Farah became a national treasure by sweeping the 5,000m and 10,000m races.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said the legacy of the Games for London goes way beyond sport.
"Olympic investment has kick-started the transformational renaissance in east London, bringing new jobs and new homes to the communities where they are most needed," Johnson said.