LONDON (Reuters) - Pop will take the podium when London bids farewell to the Olympics on Sunday, with a closing ceremony starring the Spice Girls, Annie Lennox, One Direction and a peculiarly British sense of humor.
Undeterred by criticism that the opening ceremony two weeks ago was too British for the rest of the world to fully comprehend, organizers are looking for local inspiration once again as they attempt to deliver a fitting send-off.
The prying eyes of the media and artists unable to contain their excitement have dashed all hopes of keeping the cast a secret, in a show titled “A Symphony of British Music”.
Virtually confirming their participation after months of speculation, 90s chart-toppers the Spice Girls are reuniting for a nostalgic blast of “Girl Power”, performing at the main Olympic Stadium from on top of London’s distinctive black taxis.
They, along with Jessie J, Tinie Tempah, Queen guitarist Brian May, Annie Lennox and George Michael, have all been photographed rehearsing at the Ford car plant in East London’s Dagenham, while Muse and Ed Sheeran revealed they will sing.
Still not confirmed but widely rumored to be joining them are Madness, The Who and Liam Gallagher’s band Beady Eye, while the reclusive “Running Up That Hill” singer Kate Bush could perform on video.
Monty Python comic Eric Idle was also spotted, and, bearing in mind music director David Arnold’s promise to get the audience involved, a mass singalong of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” could be a decent bet.
Once again the set is expected to comprise a central stage surrounded by a road around which vehicles can travel, and a cast of around 4,000 volunteers will dance and skip to the beat of music through the ages.
Famous London landmarks like Tower Bridge, the London Eye, parliament’s “Big Ben” Clock Tower and St Paul’s Cathedral have been reconstructed to complement the action.
“If the opening ceremony was the wedding, then we’re the wedding reception,” Arnold said in a newspaper interview, suggesting that the two ceremonies would complement each other.
The Beatles may be honored again on Sunday evening, just as they were a fortnight ago when Paul McCartney led spectators in a sing-a-long of “Hey Jude”.
Music spanning the centuries, including stirring tunes by Elgar, is set to return, as are words from William Shakespeare.
“Pixel boxes” on every seat of the 80,000-capacity arena will be used again to create vivid, giant backdrops for a show expected to attract hundreds of millions of television viewers after the opening ceremony was watched by close to a billion.
“Cheeky, cheesy and thrilling” was how Arnold has described his vision, all words that could apply equally to an opening ceremony that was unabashedly British in flavor in its humor, cultural and historical references and soundtrack.
Opening ceremony director Danny Boyle earned warm praise from Britain’s famously caustic press, but the ceremony was lost in translation for many viewers around the world who were puzzled by what it was trying to say.
They may be scratching their heads again if reports turn out to be true that sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” actors David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst appear in their trademark three-wheeled Robin Reliant car dressed as Batman and Robin.
While the comedy series has its fans outside Britain, it will not be instantly recognizable to many tuning in on Sunday.
The 150-minute closing ceremony will include video highlight reels of the July 27-August 12 Games, and in between the music will be the men’s marathon medal ceremony, athletes’ parade, speeches and a presentation by the next hosts Rio de Janeiro.
“It is never easy to do a flag handover ... but we have very exciting flag handover, very exciting, full of joy, full of passion,” said Rio’s Olympic producer Marco Balich.
The Olympic Flame, in the form of a giant flower made up of 204 copper “petals” representing the nations taking part, will be extinguished to symbolize the end of London 2012.
The Paralympic Games, which have broken ticket sales records with 2.1 million sold so far, run from August 29 to September 9.
Additional reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Greg Stutchbury