LONDON (Reuters) - The party of a lifetime over, Britons woke up and rubbed their eyes to jubilant headlines on Monday as London said farewell to its Olympic visitors after a Games that exceeded all expectations.
There was a strong sense of relief that the global spectacular had gone smoothly after widespread fears of traffic chaos and potential terror attacks casting a grim shadow before the notoriously fickle British summer weather had even played its hand.
"Two weeks of unbelievable spectacle that surpassed our wildest dreams," declared the Daily Telegraph of Britain's most successful Olympics since 1908.
"Take a bow everyone," purred the Guardian in an editorial. "The London 2012 Olympic Games went better, far better, than most people ever dared to hope."
The Times agreed, while also striking a note of caution about the future.
"From bid to closing ceremony, London 2012 confounded every pessimist. Its legacy may confound them too, but in the end that is not the point," it said.
The proud hosts, with London putting on the Games for an unprecedented third time, won 29 gold medals and 65 in total to finish third on the overall table behind sporting superpowers the United States and China.
"Dream GB", said the Sun, Britain's biggest selling newspaper, on its front page. "We're world beaters."
HAPPY AND GLORIOUS
International Olympic Committee IOC.L President Jacques Rogge had said in a speech at the raucous closing ceremony, an exuberant musical celebration, that the Games had been 'Happy and Glorious' - a nod to the national anthem and Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.
Not 'The Greatest Ever', as some of those present had hoped to hear, but the IOC has moved on from making such statements and British newspapers were happy to make that call for themselves anyway.
"Goldbye! One billion watch star-studded finale to greatest Games," read the Daily Mirror front page over a picture of the world's athletes crowding the Union Jack stage at the closing ceremony.
"The world's verdict is unanimous," trumpeted the Sun in an editorial. "Our Games were sensational. We absolutely nailed it.
"Who could have imagined so much could be achieved in two weeks. So let's be very proud today. To be British is to be a winner again."
There was much back-patting for organisers, and the volunteers who played a crucial role in the success of the Games, as well as the world's athletes themselves.
There was pride in Britain showing off its multi-cultural mix, and a perceived sense of unity only a year after riots set parts of the capital ablaze.
London mayor Boris Johnson, writing in the Telegraph, savoured the discomfort of all those 'Olympo-sceptics' who had predicted doom and gloom from what was also Britain's biggest peace-time security operation.
"Well folks, this is no time for triumphalism," he said. "This is not the time for pointless displays of irritating flag-waving jingo. Is it? OK, just a little bit perhaps.
"These Olympo-sceptics were proved decisively wrong about the Games. They will be proved wrong about the legacy as well. These Games have not changed us. They have revealed us as we are: People who can pull off great feats.
"London has put on a dazzling face to the global audience. For the first time since the end of empire, it truly feels like the capital of the world." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Tim Hart, Alastair Himmer)