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London games close, Rio gets ready

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Aug. 13, 2012, 8:49 a.m. | Sports — by Associated Press

The cauldron burns during the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London.
© AP

Associated Press

Associated Press

LONDON — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:

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RIO PREPARES

As the London Olympics closed, the next host, Rio de Janeiro, was set to kick off four years of preparations for games that some see as Brazil's entrance onto the world stage.

Many are bracing for a rocky ride as Rio — a laid-back beach city not known for its efficiency or punctuality — rushes to build four main Olympic sites and undertake a massive infrastructure overhaul.

Rio native Joao Carlos de Figueireiro said that despite the "mess" that was sure to come, he had faith things would work out in the end.

"There are definitely things we need to work on, organization-wise," said Figueireiro, a 56-year-old barman at a neighborhood cafe. "But we're experts at pulling rabbits out of hats at the last minute and I'm sure that's what we're going to do."

— Jenny Barchfield

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TERROR-FREE OLYMPICS

There were rooftop missiles near the main venue, an imposing warship on hand, an army of undercover agents. But the 2012 Olympics turned out to be terrorism-free.

British authorities say that was no coincidence.

A day after London won the Olympic bid in 2005, homegrown suicide bombers struck during London's morning rush-hour. In the aftermath, Britain's security, intelligence and eavesdropping agencies — MI5, MI6 and GCHQ — received more money, manpower and equipment and thwarted dozens of terror plots — a major factor they say has helped to keep the games safe.

"Over the years, we've managed to make Britain a difficult place to operate in if you're a terrorist," a British security official told AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

But with post-Olympics celebrations stretching into the week and the Paralympics not wrapping up until September, Britain's security officials say their job is far from over.

Hundreds of personnel have been told to forget about vacations until next month. And the private security contractor for the Olympics, G4S, says some 5,000 guards will be on hand for the Aug. 29-Sept. 9 event.

— Paisley Dodds — Twitter http://twitter.com/paisleydodds

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RIO TAKES OVER

Rio is more than samba and Carnival.

Granted, but is it men in silver metal suits with oversized headgear?

London went into kitsch overdrive as it sampled five decades of British music Sunday night at the Olympics closing ceremony, but Rio's 2016 organizers appeared determined to out-weird them.

No matter — a beaming Pele was in the house.

Rio had me at "hello" — er, "Oi." Hey boss, can I go?

— Sheila Norman-Culp, Twitter at http://twitter.com/snormanculp

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A BRITON REFLECTS

AP's Fergus Bell, a Londoner, shares his impressions of the closing ceremony from his seat in Olympic Stadium:

Britain did it. When London Mayor Boris Johnson handed the Olympic flag to the Mayor of Rio, I think that many here were sad to see it go, though there were probably a few sighs of relief as well.

But nothing at all major went wrong. For people in this country, nothing blighted these magical weeks. It's an opinion, of course, and an insider's to boot, but here it is: We did it the way we could, we did our best and we did it well.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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TOUGH MOMENT

His face serious but his voice powerful, Gary Barlow took the stage at the very end of the London Olympics closing ceremony, singing "Rule the World" alongside his Take That bandmates with strength and poise just days after a tragedy in his own life.

Speculation had been rife that Barlow would bow out of the performance after he and his wife Dawn said Aug. 6 that their daughter had been stillborn.

At the time, the couple said they were devastated by the loss of Poppy Barlow and said their focus was "on giving her a beautiful funeral and loving our three children with all our hearts."

Barlow and his wife have a son and two daughters. Barlow, also a judge of the TV talent show "The X Factor," was organizer of June's huge Buckingham Palace concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

— Cassandra Vinograd — Twitter http://twitter.com/cassvinograd

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GAMES OVER

The London Olympics have ended. IOC President Jacques Rogge just pronounced them closed.

"We will never forget the smiles, the kindness and the support of the wonderful volunteers, the much-needed heroes of these games. You, the spectators and the public, provided the soundtrack for these games," Rogge says.

He adds: "You have shown the world the best of British hospitality."

And this: "These were happy and glorious games."

He concluded: "I declare the games of the 30th Olympiad closed."

Next stop for the Summer Games: Rio 2016.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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FAREWELL FROM LONDON

"We lit the flame and we lit up the world," says London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe. He's addressing the jam-packed Olympic Stadium during the waning moments of the closing ceremony.

"For the third time in its history, London was granted the trust of the Olympic movement. And once again we have shown ourselves worthy of that trust," he says. His voice is emotional.

The man who has spent the last seven years organizing London's games summed it up with these words: "When our time came, Britain, we did it right."

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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FASHION FORWARD

London's fashion sense has always avoided matchy-matchy — but the closing ceremony is bringing that sensibility to a whole new level.

Muse was blinding in a black glitter suit, while Jessie J belted out Queen's songs in a one-legged taupe glitter catsuit.

Russell Brand sported tight purple-and-black striped pants with his top hat as he gyrated (and sang! who knew) while Annie Lennox crooned in a black lace shawl over a red "Oliver"-like bordello dress.

Not exactly office wear.

— Sheila Norman-Culp — Twitter http://twitter.com/snormanculp

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QUEEN (NOT THAT ONE)

Only one man can do what Freddie Mercury can do — Freddie Mercury. He just had to make an appearance here. Even if it was virtual.

In Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, he was represented on big screens showing a video of his 1986 performance. His Queen bandmate Brian May has almost assumed the role of conductor at big British events in recent years. He played for the actual Queen on the roof of Buckingham palace and now he is playing the Olympic Stadium.

Every member of the audience is clapping. May is conducting.

Britain to the world: "We Will Rock You."

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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A DASH OF SPICE

The Spice Girls are back. They're slightly less sporty and some of them are a little bit more posh. But their reunion has set British tongues wagging for weeks with rumors all over the tabloids.

Many of the athletes and much of the audience will have grown up with the sound of the platform-wearing quintet, myself included.

The biggest cheer of the night, and by far. Even Posh has put away her pout.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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'HOTCHPOTCH'

The Spice Girls. Eric Idle. Annie Lennox. Winston Churchill. Taxicabs and people in newspaper-themed raincoats. Tonight is a hotchpotch (that's hodgepodge to you Americans keeping score at home) of British music and skits, although organizers have called it a mashup.

They've been wheeling out most of the old favorites with little rhyme or reason.

In Britain we have an annual Royal Variety Performance where we do exactly the same thing in front of members of the royal family.

Hotpotch? Mishmosh? This is British variety at its best. Make no mistake.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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TWITTER CRITICS

The closing ceremony is well under way, and those in the stadium say the mood is "electric." But elsewhere — namely, the Twittersphere — some of the closing ceremony magic is lost on observers.

From the choice of musical acts (a boy band?!) to the sets to the soundtrack (on repeat?), journalists and British personalities were having a field day trashing the spectacle.

Some, like The Guardian's Jonathan Haynes, welcomed the negativity, calling it a return of sorts to regular British cynicism. "Two weeks of pent-up cynicism is flooding across Twitter in glorious waves. Thanks (hashtag)closingceremony :)," he wrote.

We'll leave you to find others, and there are some gems of snark and hilarity. Just browse (hashtag)closingceremony.

— Cassandra Vinograd — Twitter http://twitter.com/cassvinograd

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FASHION SPICE

Spice Girl (Posh) Victoria Beckham gets double billing in London's closing ceremony.

Not only will she be performing with her girl band, but one of her designs appears in the British fashion icon segment.

Billboards are being driven around the Olympic track featuring photographs of nine British supermodels wearing bespoke creations by British designers.

Beckham's work was being shown along with creations by Alexander McQueen, Erdem, Vivienne Westwood, Christopher Kane and Burberry.

— Danica Kirka — Twitter http://twitter.com/danicakirka

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A BIG THANK YOU

It's not often that an Olympic ceremony goes out of its way to honor ordinary people — but London's volunteers were a good place to start.

London whipped up an army of volunteers — 10,000 in all — for these Olympics, put them in goofy purple-and-pink shirts and gave them 10-hour shifts that could begin before dawn or end after midnight.

No worries. They have been the heart of these games — so cheerful, so helpful, so full of joy.

A handful of them — old, young, male, female — were brought up on the stage Sunday in a sweet tribute. Bravo, guys, bravo.

— Sheila Norman-Culp, Twitter at http://twitter.com/snormanculp

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QUICKQUOTE: AINSLIE

"Wow. This is it... The end. WE should all be very proud to have held the greatest Olympics in modern times. Huge thanks to everyone involved." — Ben Ainslie, who carried Team GB's flag into closing ceremony.

— Cassandra Vinograd — Twitter http://twitter.com/cassvinograd

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HONORING THE VOLUNTEERS

It is so great that the Gamesmakers — or volunteers — are being honored. They haven't just been the face of London; they've been the face of Britain. They've been friendly and welcoming to all, and I've heard so much praise for them over the last two weeks.

We've always known how to "do our duty." But if you had asked me seven years ago, I would never have imagined this could be one of the ways.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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GEORGE MICHAEL

Just like Paul McCartney, George Michael keeps coming back. We seem to be able to forgive all of his indiscretions.

Also: Someone has to continue to rock that all-leather look.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter —http://twitter.com/fergb

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IMAGINE

They put John Lennon up on the big screen, remastered and straight from Yoko Ono's archives, singing about how we should "Imagine all the people living life in peace." Blue light bathed Olympic Stadium, and it was picture-perfect stagecraft for an organization that wants people to believe, above all else, that the games are about the world coming together and putting aside differences.

Funny thing, though. In a lot of ways, it's kind of true.

Nearly 32 years after Lennon was murdered, this song somehow avoids being cliche and hackneyed. And to have thousands of athletes in the middle of a stadium as human examples, and tens of thousands of spectators swaying to words sung by a long-dead and optimistic pop star, you sort of can't help but believe.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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WELCOMING CROWD

There have been so many mentions about the support the home crowd is giving other nations when they win medals. Tonight is no different. Britons don't always talk to their neighbors. but we certainly try to make visitors feel welcome. The crowd roared when Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich took the gold medal on the podium.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter —http://twitter.com/fergb

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BROOM CREW

During the London riots about this time last year, crews of average citizens came to sweep up. And there they are again, a tribute to the people who loved their city and decided to clean it up after the trouble makers smashed windows and stole things.

— Danica Kirka — http://twitter.com/danicakirka

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ATHLETES IN THE HOUSE

The musical stars got us this far, but now it is the time of the athletic stars here in London's east end. The athletes are joining the party — now things can really get started. Athletes: Take your position in the mosh pit.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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BIG BUILDUP

The flash bulbs went crazy as a hot young band — One Direction — took to the stage. The crowd also got a lot louder and the rhythm is getting fast. We are definitely seeing a build up to something big here.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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WATERLOO SUNSET

Ray Davies, looking older but his voice as strong as ever, sings his most beautiful composition, "Waterloo Sunset." So many Americans of my generation (I'm 44) learned what they knew about Britain from not only the Beatles and the Stones, but Davies' Kinks, who — led by his lyrics — took a history lesson about Britain's working and middle classes without ever knowing it.

— Ted Anthony — Twitter http://twitter.com/anthonyted

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PARTY, PARTY, PARTY

AP's Danica Kirka shares her impressions of the closing ceremony from her seat in Olympic Stadium:

"There's just a fantastic vibe in the stadium. Part street party, part celebration of all things Britain. The Household Cavalry in all their gorgeous red coats and bearskin hats. So very aren't-we-proud to be British."

— Danica Kirka — Twitter http://twitter.com/danicakirka

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SIR WINSTON?

Here's something you don't see every day: An actor playing Sir Winston Churchill popping out of Big Ben to get things going.

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A PRINCE WATCHES

Prince Harry gets a prime spot. He has certainly been very visible during the games, making appearances at a lot of events.

But really so many see him as a party boy, so it seems only fitting that he presides over this massive party.

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