London (AsiaNews) - Although the spotlight is now moving to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the future host city of 31st Olympiad in 2016, organisers, volunteers and spectators are still full of the sounds and images of London 2012, which came to an end yesterday in a spectacular ceremony. A few figures dominated the event, US swimmer Michael Phelps, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and naturalised UK runner Mo Farah (pictured), but also the first two Saudi women athletes to compete in modern Olympics. The London Games saw the United States take the lead in the medal count after China topped the list in 2008, when it was the host nation. The West has bounced back against the East, but the gap has narrowed and perhaps the Brazilian Games might see a new trend.
The London 2012 Olympics ended with a spectacular, music-centred closing ceremony and the official handover to the next host city, Rio de Janeiro. In fact, the three-hour show featured some of the biggest names in British pop from decades past, including the Spice Girls, George Michael and Take That.
At the close of the ceremony, watched in the stadium by the 10,000 athletes and 80,000 spectators, the flame was extinguished in dramatic fashion. Each nation will receive one of the cauldron's 204 petals.
The Olympic flag was waved aloft by London Mayor Boris Johnson and passed by Mr Rogge into the hands of the Mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes.
The United States headed the medal count with 46 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze (104 gold medals), followed by China, which nevertheless won a record number of medals at Games held abroad with 38 gold, 27 silver and 22 bronze, for a total of 87 medals. In addition to its traditional areas of strength like swimming, diving and table tennis, some of China's medals came from non-traditional sports like sailing, fencing and boxing. Host nation Great Britain came in third with 29 gold, 17 silver and 19 bronze for a total of 65 medals.
Chinese state media extolled the success of Chinese athletes, dismissing charges of doping and criticism of the rigidity of China's sport training system, best illustrated by the cases of diver Wu Minxia, who learnt about her mother's cancer and her grandparents' death only after she won to avoid disturbing her training, and 16-year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen, who swam the final 50 m in the 400 metres individual medley faster than males swimmers.
In a combination of self-pity and nationalism fuelled by Chinese media and blogs, Chinese deputy sports minister has reportedly accused judges of discriminating against Chinese athletes.
The China Daily and People's Daily Overseas Edition praised the Chinese delegation's "splendid" performance, but complained of unjust treatment.
But 22-year-old Choeyang Kyi has etched her name into history as China's first Tibetan Olympic medallist, having secured a bronze medal in the women's 20-km race walk event held on Saturday at the London Summer Olympics.
"Last night, all of the Tibetans here stayed up and watched your game on the track. We were thrilled to see you win a medal," one blogger wrote.
Religion has also been a winner at these Games. Relegated to the margins in London and Britain, religion has been a fundamental support for athletes, as AsiaNews recently wrote.
One of the most beautiful examples of faith was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, king of speed and winner in the 100, 200 and 400 metres relay, who could not stop making the sign of the cross.
Equally, Somali-born British runner Mohammed Farah, a devout Muslim who lives in Great Britain, knelt after winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres to thank Allah.