British: 'We lit the flame, and we lit up the world'

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2012 - 7:18 AM

Typically calm Brits played their role with pride, patience and good humor.

LONDON - At the end of two weeks of competition -- not to mention seven years of preparation -- Olympic host cities often feel as anyone would after a two-week party. They will miss having the world hanging out with them, but they're ready to see everyone off and tidy up.

Britain seemed to have a much different reaction Sunday, when the curtain fell on the London Olympics with a riotous closing ceremony. When it was announced that it was time to extinguish the Olympic flame, 80,000 people in Olympic Stadium audibly sighed. A country that fretted over how it would pull off the Summer Games had embraced them thoroughly, so much so that it wasn't ready for them to end.

The London Olympics produced 44 world records, 117 Olympic records and an outpouring of national pride that caught many Brits off guard. A people known for their reserve found themselves painting their faces to cheer on equestrians and kayakers. They lined up in small towns to have their photos taken with mailboxes painted gold, in honor of their home-grown Olympic medalists.

The enthusiasm of the Brits put an Olympic spin on their favorite slogan, Keep Calm and Carry On. They carried on, all right, enveloping Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre and every other venue in a deafening din every time a British athlete appeared. By the end, it seemed impossible that this country had ever been unsure of its place in the world, or too reserved to step up and claim it.

"We lit the flame, and we lit up the world,'' said Lord Sebastian Coe, head of the London Olympics organizing committee. "The British people got behind London's bid, and they got behind London's Games. Our opening ceremony proclaimed these would be a Games for everyone. At our closing ceremony, we can say that these were a Games by everyone.''

Nearly 8 million spectators attended these Olympics, quieting the skeptics who predicted they would be a debacle. The worries about security never materialized. Public transportation ran smoothly most of the time, and the occasional bottlenecks were met with patience and good humor.

British athletes were overwhelmed by the ovations they received everywhere, from a public that embraced even those in the most obscure sports. There was some debate over whether it was unseemly to cheer for Brits to win; traditionally, this is a society that has always celebrated the effort rather than the outcome. That seemed to go out the window as soon as cyclist Bradley Wiggins and rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won Great Britain's first gold medals of the Games.

The home team's haul -- 29 golds and 65 medals overall -- placed it third in the medal count. The Americans, who led the medals table with 46 golds and 104 total medals, said the noise in some venues was the loudest they had heard -- and that it required a bit of imagination to keep from becoming unnerved. "You have to pretend they're cheering for you,'' said swimmer Missy Franklin, who did draw plenty of applause as she won four gold medals and one bronze in a star-making performance. Also representing well: nine of the 14 Team USA members with Minnesota ties are coming home with medals.

The Olympics showcased a modern, multicultural Britain. Its most celebrated athletes included the Somalia-born Mo Farah, who could be knighted after winning both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters and being hailed by Coe -- a two-time Olympic champion in the 1,500 -- as the greatest runner in British history. Aristocrats and commoners cheered side by side, and even the royals got into the act, as Queen Elizabeth, Princes William and Harry and other members of the royal family turned up at many venues.

There were still a few naysayers. The singer Morrissey asked whether "England had ever been quite so foul with patriotism,'' yet others saw the Olympics as a means to move past some of the issues that have divided the country. Only a year ago, there was widespread rioting in London, set off by the shooting of a man by police.

Coe, Mayor Boris Johnson and others hoped the Olympics could bridge some of the social and economic rifts that troubled the country.

On Sunday, Britain came together one final time at the Olympic stadium to listen to the Who, the Spice Girls, Annie Lennox and other Britpop favorites. One of the highlights of the show came when comedian Eric Idle, of the Monty Python troupe, sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,'' and 80,000 people in the stadium whistled along with him. The Olympics were ending, but Coe and other Olympic officials hope the happy hangover lasts.

"We have seen in these days what tenacity can do, what ambition can do, what imagination can do,'' Coe said. "We know more now, as individuals and as a nation, just what we are capable of. I said that these Games would see the best of us. On this last day, I can finish with these words: When our time came, Britain, we did it right.''

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Philadelphia 3:30 PM
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 106 FINAL
Denver 109
Oklahoma City 104 FINAL
LA Lakers 103
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 FINAL
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 67 FINAL
California 78
Idaho State 56 FINAL
Utah State 69
Arizona 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 55
Hawaii 94 FINAL
Chaminade 63
Nevada 10:00 AM
Utah State 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 67 FINAL
New Mexico St 62
No Dakota State 79 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 86
Utah State 92 FINAL
Sacramento St 102
Bethesda (CA) 61 FINAL
Fresno State 83
Utah Valley U 44 FINAL
Montana 68
UC Santa Barbara 45


question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters