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Best of British for Games swansong

Big Ben's chimes have rung out across the Olympic Stadium to mark the start of the pre-show to the London 2012 closing ceremony.

The stage was set with paper sculptures of the capital's landmarks, including the London Eye, Big Ben and Tower Bridge, covering the centre of the stadium where Mo Farah took his second gold just 24 hours ago.

Traditionally, the closing ceremony is a chance to celebrate what the athletes have achieved, with Olympics supremo Lord Coe describing the night as a time to "party, party, party".

The 2012 closing ceremony - called A Symphony Of British Music - celebrates music as one of Britain's strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years. Early performers during the ceremony included the Pet Shop Boys, Madness, One Direction, Emeli Sande and The Kinks' frontman Ray Davies.

Winston Churchill, played by King's Speech actor Timothy Spall, stood atop Big Ben reciting the same lines from Shakespeare's The Tempest which helped open the Games 16 days ago: "Be not afeard: the isle is full of noises."

As the deafening noise grew to a crescendo, Churchill brought the worldwide audience's focus to the royal box as a fanfare announced the arrival of Prince Harry and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.

In another nod to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, 10 large trucks burst open to reveal street parties representing all walks of London life. Some 30 gymnasts from Britain's Got Talent troupe Spelbound contorted themselves to illustrate the lyrics of The Beatles' A Day in The Life.

As many of the 10,000 athletes from the 204 nations involved in the Games flooded into the stadium, filling the areas between the ramped stage, they joined hands during Elbow's performance of Open Arms and One Day Like This. Billions of viewers were treated to another interpretation of the Union Flag as the athletes, in their national colours, formed a mosh pit around the stage.

The handover from London 2012 to the Rio 2016 team will take place along with the extinguishing of the flame, signalling the end of the Games. Traditionally, it is a chance to celebrate what the athletes have achieved and also for a massive party.

US President Barack Obama called Prime Minister David Cameron earlier to "congratulate him and the people of the United Kingdom and London on an extremely successful Olympic Games", a White House spokesman said. It "speaks to the character and spirit of our close ally", he added.

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