The chimes of London's Big Ben kicked off the closing ceremony for the Olympic Games here precisely at 9:00 p.m. (2000 GMT), a glitzy event witnessed live and cheered by more than 80,000 spectators at the Stratford Olympic Stadium.
The approximately three-hour ceremony had as its theme a "symphony" of British music over the past 50 years.
Argentina's Olympic taekwondo gold medalist Sebastian Crismanich thanked his countryman, national basketball team player Luis Scola, for allowing him to take his place as the flagbearer at the ceremony.
"I don't want to wake up from this dream. The generosity of Luis Scola is unbelievable because it was thought that he was the flagbearer, but he gave that responsibility to me. I can't believe that an Olympic champion like him handed over the flag to me," said Crismanich before the start of the closing festivities.
When he was reminded that he, too, was now an Olympic champion - having taken the gold in the welterweight category - he said, "I still haven't grasped ... that I'm an Olympic champion."
The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, received the Olympic flag at 11:26 p.m. from the hand of the president of the International Olympic Committee, Belgium's Jacques Rogge, at the ceremony. Rio was designated as the site for the next Summer Olympics in October 2009 and it will hold the next Games' opening ceremony on Aug. 5, 2016.
To celebrate its accession to the role of the site of the next Olympics, Brazil converted the stadium into the site of a mini-Carnival, with a special appearance by soccer icon Pele, as the country's "ambassador," and with an army of 225 dancers dressed in lighted outfits, who performed energetic samba and other rhythms for eight minutes to an assortment of artists onstage after the Brazilian national anthem was played.
The Olympic closing ceremony, just like the Games' inaugural ceremony, was a tribute to the best British pop-rock music with performances by big stars like The Who, George Michael, the Spice Girls, Muse, Queen, Ray Davies of The Kinks, Oasis and the Kaiser Chiefs.
With assorted rhythms replacing each other and constantly changing stages, the 80,000 people on hand for the closing festivities were treated to a review of some of the most popular songs of recent decades produced by British musicians.
The performance of John Lennon's emblematic "Imagine" was one of the memorable moments of the ceremony, but whereas it was Lennon's former Beatles-mate Paul McCartney who wrapped up the opening ceremony with his iconic "Hey Jude," it was the rock band The Who who closed the celebration with a forceful "My Generation," accompanied by fireworks that illuminated the British capital.
The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset," the group's No. 1 song from 1967 and a special tribute to the city of London was performed by its creator Ray Davies.
Emeli Sande, Madness, the Pet Shop Boys, along with George Michael and Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics also performed, as well as the specially-reunited Spice Girls, and the Kaiser Chiefs, who gave their rendition of "Pinball Wizard" from The Who's classic rock-opera album "Tommy."
Rounding out the performances were Liam Gallagher, Jessie J, Tinie Tempah and Taio Cruz performing a rap duet, an homage of numbers by David Bowie, the band Muse, and former Queen bandmembers Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor churning out "We Will Rock You."
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned British Prime Minister David Cameron to congratulate him and all Britons on the success of the Olympic Games this year, the White House said in a statement.
The two leaders praised each other's athletes for producing "exceptional results" at the Games. The United States finished out this year's competition with 104 medals - 46 golds, and 29 each in the silver and bronze category - while Britain secured 65 medals, 29 golds, 17 silvers and 19 bronzes, whereas other top medal-winning countries were China with 87 and Russia with 82.
The U.S. leader also thanked Cameron for the welcome London gave to the U.S. athletes and to his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, who attended the Games' opening ceremony. EFE