LONDON — A rocking night of performances by Annie Lennox, Eric Idle, George Michael and others inside the Olympic Stadium yesterday marked a triumphant end to the London Games, where the United States topped the medals chart and host country Britain surpassed expectations. The last American gold of the Olympics did not come easily, as a US basketball team that included Lebron James and Kobe Bryant at one point were behind Spain on the final afternoon of Olympic sport. The US basketball gold was the Americans’ last of 46, for a total of 104. That put them well ahead of no. 2 China, which won 87 medals, including 38 golds. Britain won 29 golds, third-most of any nation, and 65 medals overall—good for fourth in that category behind Russia, a winner of 82 medals, 24 of them gold. The games ended with a huge party in the main stadium that began with a shout-out to Winston Churchill and a celebration of the Union Jack. It including rock ‘n’ roll rickshaws, dustbin percussionists, an exploding yellow car and a marching band in red tunics. The show, put together by artistic director Kim Gavin, also featured a parade of the 10,800 athletes, who marched in as one, rather than with their nations, symbolising the harmony and friendship inspired by the games. The crowd cheered and the Olympians gave it right back, waving flags and arms.
Later in the ceremony, London organisers handed the Olympic flag to organisers of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. “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,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said, as he declared the games closed. Earlier on the basketball court, The US was ahead just 97-91 when James dunked and then hit a three-pointer to allow the Americans to pull away for a 107-100 win in a replay of the 2008 final at the Beijing Games. Bryant scored 17 points. In the bronze final, Alexei Shved scored 25 points—13 in the fourth quarter—and Russia won its first Olympic medal in basketball, 81-77 over Argentina. Earlier, in the first of 15 gold medals presented on the final day of the games, it was the marathoners who got to see London at its best. Under sunny skies for the fifth day in a row, the runners left from The Mall near Buckingham Palace and took a route along the River Thames past the Tower of London and circled close to Big Ben. At the end of their 42-kilometre (26-mile) tourist jaunt, it was Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda who crossed the finish line first in a time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, 1 second. Abel Kirui of Kenya was second, 26 seconds behind, while another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang took the bronze.
“People didn’t expect Uganda. They thought Kenya, Ethiopia,” Kiprotich said. “Being unknown, now I’m known.” The Kenyan team was running in memory of their countryman Sammy Wanjiru, who four years ago in Beijing captured the country’s first Olympic marathon gold. But he died last year after a fall from a second-floor balcony during a domestic dispute. At Hadleigh east of London, world champion Jaroslav Kulhavy of Czech Republic won a two-man sprint to claim the men’s mountain bike gold medal. Kulhavy made the most of a final steep ascent on the technical circuit in the English countryside to move ahead of Nino Schurter of Switzerland and then sprinted to the line.
Schurter claimed the silver medal and Italian Marco Aurelio Fontana of Italy took bronze. In men’s boxing finals, flyweight Robeisy Ramirez won Cuba’s second boxing gold medal of the games, capping a stellar run through the tournament with a 17-14 victory over Mongolia’s Tugstsogt Nyambayar. Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine won his second consecutive gold, completing his domination of the London lightweights with a 19-9 victory over South Korea’s Han Soon-chul. Serik Sapiyev of Kazakhstan won gold in the welterweight division, overcoming Britain’s Freddie Evans 17-9, while Egor Mekhontsev of Russia won the light heavyweight title on a countback tiebreaker over Kazakhstan’s Adilbek. The fighters finished level at 15 points apiece, and the tiebreaker — which evaluates larger parts of the judges’ total scores — also was level. The five judges then voted for their choice, and Mekhontsev claimed Russia’s only boxing gold in London.
British boxer Anthony Joshua won the super heavyweight gold in similar fashion, rallying from a third-round deficit to beat defending champion Roberto Cammarelle of Italy in another tiebreaker. It was Britain’s 29th gold medal of the games, leaving the hosts third behind the leading US total of 46 and China’s 38. Elsewhere, Croatia won its first Olympic gold in men’s water polo, getting two second-half goals each from Miho Boskovic and Maro Jokovic to pull away from Italy for an 8-6 win. France beat Sweden 22-21 on to win its second consecutive gold medal in men’s handball. Russia won its fourth consecutive gold medal in rhythmic gymnastics group all-around while its male volleyballers came from two sets down—saving two championship points—to beat Brazil in five sets. In the 302nd of 302 medals decided, Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania used a strong running performance in the final event to win the women’s modern pentathlon.