The London Games are set to end in a blazing tribute to British pop and pizazz, with a closing ceremony that will see stars from the Spice Girls to The Who turn Olympic Stadium into a giant jukebox of musical hits.
Two weeks of sporting drama wrap up Sunday with what music director David Arnold has called “the greatest after-party in the world.”
“If the opening ceremony was the wedding, then we’re the wedding reception,” Arnold told the Daily Telegraph — with everyone from the Pet Shop Boys to Annie Lennox and Fatboy Slim on hand to get people dancing.
Although organizers have tried to the ceremony under wraps, many details have leaked out in the British media — and some of the 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.
Tips and photos have emerged from the rehearsal venue, an old car plant in east London.
The Spice Girls were photographed dancing atop black London taxis, so a rendition of their biggest hit, “Wannabe,” seems certain.
So does an appearance by surviving members of Queen, whose “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” have been ever-present at the games.
And Ray Davies of The Kinks is tipped to perform his majestic London ballad “Waterloo Sunset.”
Paul McCartney has already performed at the opening ceremony, but it’s inconceivable that there won’t be a bit of Beatles music in a tribute to the best of British pop.
And organizers will want to include younger acts such as Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, Emeli Sande and the Kaiser Chiefs.
Organizers have said 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.”
The Daily Mail newspaper published photographs of what it said was the set, involving reconstructions of London landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge.
The show won’t be short on spectacle. Director Kim Gavin has overseen tours for the band Take That and directed London’s 2007 Princess Diana memorial concert. Designer Es Devlin has created sets for everyone from Lady Gaga to the Royal Opera.
As with director Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, London is aiming for a plucky, irreverent tone far removed from Beijing’s 2008 Olympic closer, which was heavy on precision displays of fireworks, acrobatics and dancing.
“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 a section of song and dance created by the next Summer Games host country, Brazil.
And of course there will be ceremonial elements, including an athletes’ march, the raising of the flags of Greece — birthplace of the Olympics— current host Britain and 2016 games host Brazil, speeches and the extinguishing of the Olympic cauldron, marking the handover of the games to Rio.
But the main event will be a mashup of music, theater, circus and hit parade.
The ceremony is just the cherry on top of London’s weekend of gold-medal parties.
It’s about time, say some social observers, who claim that London’s party scene has been muted during the games, dragged down by economic recession.
Britain’s economic gloom means nightclubs and pop-up venues have had to work to lure athletes and celebrities. But they are giving thanks for Olympic swimmers, whose events ended last weekend, leaving them free to party.
The paparazzi were also thankful, filling newspaper pages with party-hardy Olympians.
U.S. champion Michael Phelps — who ended his Olympic career with 22 medals, 18 of them gold— has been spotted in London’s Soho nightlife district.
Teammate Ryan Lochte was photographed leaving the Chinawhite nightclub — long a favorite of partying British royalty. This time around, the club has drawn athletes in droves by offering gold medalists a free Golden Cocktail — a concoction of champagne, cognac and real gold flakes priced, for the rest of us, at 2,012 pounds ($3,150).
Lochte emerged looking a bit bleary-eyed, but it could have been the chlorine.
Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and a member of Britain’s silver medal-winning equestrian eventing team, was spotted drinking champagne and dancing shoeless at the club.
“I’ve heard it’s not been easy for a lot of venues in London, but we’ve been very lucky,” said Chinawhite club manager James Spallone.
He said the venue was designed to be “a safe haven for athletes to let their hair down.”
“They are amongst their peers. They know everybody,” he said.
Swimmers have not been the only athletes blowing off steam.
Cyclist Bradley Wiggins tweeted pictures of himself celebrating with a drink in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral after winning gold in the road race. “Getting wasted,” he tweeted.
Another cyclist — 20-year-old Gijs van Hoecke of Belgium — was sent home after photos appeared of him looking very drunk while leaving a London nightclub.
Still, that was all prologue to the final weekend’s blowout, which certainly won’t be confined to Olympic athletes.
Some of the action will center on national hospitality houses set up by the Dutch, the Russians and the French, among others. A lucky elite, however, will take to the water for a handful of yacht parties.
Nearly a dozen of the world’s most luxurious vessels, including the 413-foot (126-meter) Octopus, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, are docked in east London near the Olympic site.
“It’s going to be a big party, no doubt,” said Benjamin Sutton, director of communications for “superyacht concierge service” MGMT. “Security is tight.”
On land, Olympic sponsors such as Adidas and Omega plan parties at invitation-only pop-up clubs set up for the games. Omega hosting a Brazilian night Friday to celebrate Rio’s turn as host of the 2016 Games, while Adidas is sponsoring a closing-night party with DJ team Livin’ Proof on the decks.
Sportswear rival Puma — Usain Bolt’s sponsor — plans a closing-night celebration at its Jamaica-themed venue in London’s Brick Lane.
Budweiser is sponsoring Club Bud, transforming the Roundhouse music venue in north London into a party destination expected to draw U.S. athletes — including its biggest stars, the basketball team — as well as big-name hip-hop artists.
More accessibly, London’s Hyde Park is the location for a closing-night outdoor concert featuring, Blur, New Order and The Specials.