2012 Olympics | July 27 - August 12
Posted: Saturday August 11, 2012 1:43AM ; Updated: Saturday August 11, 2012 3:16PM

The Who, Spice Girls to rock closing ceremonies

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The Who will play the 2012 Olympic Clocing Ceremony.
Classic British rockers The Who played the Super Bowl in 2010.
Max Nash/AP

LONDON (AP) -- Get the Union Jacks out and prepare to party: Olympic Stadium is being transformed into a giant jukebox of British pop and pizazz for the ceremony that wraps up the so-far spectacularly successful London Games.

The Spice Girls and The Who are among the acts celebrating two weeks of sporting competition with a Sunday finale that artistic director Kim Gavin calls "a mashed-up symphony" of British hits.

Gavin - who has directed rock tours and London's 2007 Princess Diana memorial concert - said Saturday he wants the spectacular to be "the best after-show party that's ever been."

"If the opening ceremony was the wedding, then we're the wedding reception," music director David Arnold told the Daily Telegraph.

Although organizers have tried to keep the ceremony acts secret, many details have leaked out in the British media - and some performers have let the cat out of the bag themselves.

The Who, George Michael, Muse and Ed Sheeran have all said they will take part in a show that will include performances of 30 British hit singles from the past five decades - whittled down by Gavin from a possible 1,000. The Pet Shop Boys, Annie Lennox and Fatboy Slim will also be on hand to get people dancing.

Gavin said the show will open with a tribute to the "cacophony" of London life, with a soundtrack ranging from the late Edward Elgar - composer of the "Pomp and Circumstance" march - to The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset." Frontman Ray Davies is expected to perform the 1960s song, a love letter to London.

Thousands of athletes from 204 competing nations will march in and become a standing, milling audience - Gavin dubbed them the "mosh pit" - for the main section of the show, "A Symphony of British Music."

Details of the performers have emerged through tips and photos coming out of the rehearsal venue, an old car plant in east London. While the creators of the opening ceremony could rehearse for weeks inside Olympic Stadium, Gavin and his team have less than a day between the end of track and field competition and Sunday's ceremony.

Gavin said he had 17 hours to get a show that involves multiple sets, pyrotechnics and 3,500 volunteer performers "from a car park to here."

The Spice Girls were photographed dancing atop black London taxis, so a rendition of their biggest hit, "Wannabe," seems likely.

So does an appearance by surviving members of Queen, whose "We Will Rock You" has been ever-present at the games.

Paul McCartney has already performed at the opening ceremony, but it's inconceivable that there won't be a bit of Beatles music.

And organizers will want to include younger acts such as Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, Emeli Sande and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Gavin would not say whether he had failed to secure any acts he had hoped to book - although he said two who initially said no changed their minds after seeing the spectacular opening ceremony on July 27.

"There was no room," he said - but would divulge the artists.

Gavin said the lineup was driven by the songs - a hit parade of pop classics - more than by the artists.

"It was more important the song made the set list, or the creative idea," Gavin said. "If the artist wasn't available, we asked someone else."

Executive producer Stephen Daldry said the biggest pressure the creative team felt "is making sure the athletes have the greatest possible time."

U.S. team members - some of whom missed the opening ceremony because they had to compete the next day - were looking forward to the closing.

"We're all going to get ready together tomorrow," said swimmer Missy Franklin, who is going home with four gold medals and a bronze. "I think it is the perfect way to end the entire journey."

Added judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison: "My roommate and I have been practicing our Spice Girls."

Like the Olympic opening ceremony, the closer will showcase British icons and British creativity. The Daily Mail newspaper published photographs of what it said was the ceremony's set, involving reconstructions of London landmarks such as St. Paul's Cathedral and Tower Bridge.

Organizers say they want the ceremony to be a "cheeky" reflection of modern Britain, so expect touches of Monty Pythonesque humor - perhaps even Python Eric Idle leading a mass rendition of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

"It's not anything desperately profound," London games chief Sebastian Coe said. "It's not the opening ceremony but I think it will be great. It's basically a tribute to British music over the last few decades. It's fun."

There will also be an eight-minute section of song and dance created by the 2016 Summer Games host country, Brazil. Expect samba, colorful costumes and some 300 performers, including supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio.

And of course there will be ceremonial elements, including raising the flags of Greece, Britain and Brazil. Dignitaries' speeches - "which hopefully will be nice and brief," Gavin said - will be followed by the extinguishing of the Olympic cauldron, marking the handover of the games to Rio.

London is aiming for a plucky, irreverent tone far removed from Beijing's 2008 Olympic closer, which was heavy on precision fireworks, acrobatics and dancing.

Gavin said he was inspired by Sydney's 2000 closing ceremony, which showcased the vibrancy of Australian culture.

"They did `Waltzing Matilda,"' he said. "They did stuff that said, `Hey, we're Australian.' That's what our show does.

"Not that we're Australian," he added quickly.

Heavy medal day

Don't blink, or you may miss a gold medal being handed out. It's medal Saturday, when a dizzying 32 golds will be handed out.

That's by far the biggest medal day of these games, with one more day of competition to go.

The highest-profile events on Saturday are the men's soccer final between Brazil and Mexico, the 4x100 relay featuring Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans and the women's basketball final between the United States and France.

- Jon Krawczynski - Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

British gold rush

British Prime Minister David Cameron was at Dorney Lake to watch kayaker Ed McKeever win the host nation's 26th gold of the games with victory in the men's 200-meter K-1 final.

"He's pretty quick, isn't he?" Cameron told reporters. "Obviously it's not only just physically very challenging but technically, you can see. When I get into a kayak there is quite a lot of splashing.

"It was fantastic, we're striking gold again."

The venue in Windsor is owned by Cameron's old school, Eton.

"It's lovely to come and see it for myself," he said, accompanied by his wife, Samantha, and three children. "Haven't been before, I wish I'd come last Saturday for that amazing day (when Britain beat Australia to gold in the men's four in rowing), but it was my day to look after the children."

- Steve Douglas - Twitter http://twitter.com/sdouglas80

Quick quote: "Mosh pit"

"We then will invite a very large number of athletes into our stadium and they become the mosh pit. The golden circle for our performance tomorrow night. They become our immediate audience on the field of play. And they come from everywhere and they come as one." - closing ceremony director Kim Gavin on the central role that Olympic athletes will play Sunday night.

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

They're still coming

London's organizing committee says 325,000 spectators visited Olympic venues on Friday, and 144,000 of those walked through the gates of Olympic Park. Some 7.7 million spectators have visited Olympic venues over the course of the games.

However, on Sunday spectator numbers will decline. Olympic Park will host only three events on the final day: water polo, modern pentathlon and handball. The rest of the park will be in transition mode as Olympic Stadium is transformed into a giant stage for the closing ceremony Sunday night.

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

'Party, party, party'

Olympic organizers are in a race against time to transform the main London stadium from a sporting theater of dreams into what they are billing as the best after-show party on Earth.

Sunday's official closing ceremony is officially described as a symphony of British music - a celebration of British creativity in the arts. But London organizing committee head Sebastian Coe interpreted that, more loosely, as being "a party, party, party!"

- Sandy MacIntyre

Geno's goal

As architect of the dominant program in women's college basketball, Geno Auriemma knows almost everything there is to know about winning. Almost.

Auriemma has guided UConn to seven national titles, four perfect seasons and an NCAA record 90 victories in a row. And yet, with all that experience winning games over the years, Auriemma is poised to win something he's never won before - a gold medal.

The United States women play France for the Olympic title on Saturday. It would be the Americans' fifth straight gold medal, but Auriemma's first. And for once, the outspoken coach isn't sure what to say.

"For me, winning the gold medal is something that I probably won't be able to talk about or fully express until it actually happens," he says. "Because I'm sure you can't prepare for it, how you're going to feel or what it means to you personally."

- Jon Krawczynski - Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Going ticketless

There have been loads of complaints about tickets at the London games and grumblings that VIPs were squeezing out average fans at the London Olympics. But bargain-hunting Britons are just going ticketless.

Hundreds of thousands of people have cheered on their favorites in person free of charge.

With cyclists, runners, triathletes, race walkers and even swimmers competing in the streets and parks of London, ticketless fans have the chance to attend an Olympic event every day or two. That has attracted hordes of flag-waving Britons, but also Brazilians, Americans, Germans and Japanese.

Whether they were befuddled by Britain's computerized ticket lottery or are just plain cheap, ticketless fans have three opportunities Saturday to see an Olympic event. The men's 50-kilometer race walk on The Mall near Buckingham Palace, with the women's 20-kilometer event using the same 2-kilometer circuit at later in the afternoon.

The men's marathon is Sunday. Expect a crowd.

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

Australian flag

It hasn't been the most successful of Olympics for Australia. In fact, with three sailing team medals, the country has won more gold on the water than in it, thanks to an underwhelming performance by its much-vaunted swimming team (which won just one gold, a relay).

The Australian Olympic Committee has rewarded one of the gold-medal sailors, Malcolm Page, by naming him to carry the flag at Sunday's closing ceremony. Page won gold in London in the 470 classs with Mat Belcher after having won the same event in Beijing with Nathan Wilmot.

- Dennis Passa - Twitter http://twitter.com/DennisPassa

Blade Runner reflects

The "Blade Runner" did not win a medal, but that doesn't mean these Olympics were any less important.

Oscar Pistorius set a precedent with his journey to and through the London Games, and he can add one more accomplishment: He was a finalist.

A double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades, Pistorius anchored the South Africa team in the 4x400-meter relay final on Friday night, bringing the 80,000-strong crowd to a crescendo.

It didn't matter that he finished eighth. He can proudly add "Olympic finalist" to his long list of unprecedented achievements.

"This whole experience was amazing ... to step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for," Pistorius said. "That opportunity to come here once again and finish today and not yesterday is a dream come true."

Pistorius said the atmosphere, the crowd, the competition, the experience were all "far beyond my expectations."

"If I took all the positive things I thought might come out of this and multiply it by 10, it still couldn't come close."

- John Pye

Lakers face off

Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will face off when the United States takes on Spain for the gold medal on Sunday.

While both aspire to take home a gold for their respective countries, on Friday both were also thinking about Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic center who was traded to the Lakers.

Gasol said the move will give the Lakers a huge boost.

"It puts us in a position of trying to win the championship and going after it," he said. "There's going to be expectations of being a very strong and powerful team, and we like that."

Bryant was even more exuberant, proclaiming that the Lakers are "locked and loaded to bring back the title."

He spoke with Howard on Friday morning, and interrupted his pursuit of a gold medal to talk about the years to come in Los Angeles.

"I'll probably play two or three more years. Then the team is his," Bryant said. "I'm excited for the franchise because now they have a player that can carry the franchise well after I'm gone. This should be his and he should want to accept that challenge."

- Jon Krawczynski - Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski and Tim Reynolds - Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

One more Bolt

The London Games are going to get one more Bolt before they come to a close.

Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans will be the favorites when they hit the track for the 4x100 relay finals on Saturday. A victory would give Bolt three golds in London, and six for his already brilliant career.

Bolt rested on Friday while his teammates clocked in at 37.39 seconds, a time that surely will drop with the world's fastest man in the group.

Still, the Americans showed they're not going to just hand Bolt the gold medal. Their time of 37.38 seconds was a U.S. record.

"There's a lot of people there who have come to spoil the party," Bolt said earlier this week. "So we'll see."

- Jon Krawczynski - Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Different team, same goal

Hugh McCutcheon overcame heartbreak to lead the U.S. men's volleyball team to the gold medal in Beijing. Now he's trying to put all that behind him while helping the women's team chase down its first gold.

McCutcheon's father-in-law was stabbed to death in Beijing just before the opening ceremonies. The grieving coach stayed with his team to win gold and has since moved to the women's side with great success.

The Americans are the No. 1 team in the world as they head into the final against Brazil on Saturday night looking to add a gold to the two silvers and a bronze in the team's medal case.

As for the tragedy in Beijing, McCutcheon is trying to move on.

"It's not part of our story; it's not part of our journey," he says. "From Day 1, it's been about USA women's volleyball and trying to get to the mountain top. That's it."

- Jon Krawczynski - Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Drunk as a skunk

It's hard to picture U.S. men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as a party animal staggering around the streets of London.

But that's exactly how he jokingly described himself after the U.S. beat Argentina by 26 points on Friday night to advance to the gold medal game.

Krzyzewski took exception to a question from a reporter asking if he had to do any coaching, given he had such a talented roster.

"Absolutely none," he deadpanned. "I'm out every night with my family, drunk as a skunk. Wait till you see me tonight. I'll get in at six and you all are invited to come out with me."

Krzyzewski is famous for his obsessive preparation, so the only headache he'll have on Saturday likely will be the one caused by planning for the Sunday gold medal final against Spain.

- Jon Krawczynski - Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Marry me!

It brings a whole new meaning to Olympic rings.

Love is in the air during the 2012 games, it seems. The question has been popped an estimated 25 times under the large, multi-colored rings inside Olympic Park.

Bram Lobeek, from Utrecht in the Netherlands, finally found the moment he had been looking for all year.

After watching the Dutch men's hockey team beat South Korea this week, he convinced his reluctant girlfriend of almost 10 years to line up for a photo by the rings.

He didn't explain his motive - and fretted as she started to look bored.

His girlfriend, Hetty van der Pennen, recalled wondering why she was wasting her time there.

"So I was standing and I said 'what is he doing?' and he was pointing at the Olympic rings and he said 'well, these are yours,"' she said Friday. "I said: 'What?' Then he went down on his knees."

- Corrin Grant

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