EYES ON LONDON: For London Olympics, farewell time

Associated Press + More

By The Associated Press, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — This is the final installment of Eyes on London, which roamed the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:

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HAPPY TRAILS

Thousands of Olympic athletes have started streaming into Heathrow Airport. Some were even waved off by special volunteers wearing bearskin hats.

Heathrow is bracing for one of its busiest days ever with some 116,000 people expected to leave Britain on Monday.

A special terminal with 31 check-in desks has been set up to deal with departing athletes and support staff. After three days, it will go back to its previous life: a parking lot for airport staff.

— Gregory Katz — Twitter http://twitter.com/gregory_p_katz

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BEAT BOBBIES

The Olympics ended without any terror incidents or disruptive demonstrations, but police say their jobs are far from over. Some 7,000 officers will be on hand to police the upcoming Nottinghill Carnival, and the same number will help secure the Paralympics, which don't end until next month.

That means no vacations until then.

"I'm very proud that we didn't have anything serious to deal with, but that was because of a lot of hard work done by a lot of people," Chris Allison with Scotland Yard tells The Associated Press. "The focus has been exactly where we wanted — on the sport and not security."

Some 250 people were arrested during the games.

— Paisley Dodds — Twitter http://twitter.com/paisleydodds

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LONELY PARK

Overnight, Olympic Park in London has gone from party central to an empty, blocked-off construction site.

Now that the games are over, the park is eerily deserted. The main stadium is blocked off by metal barriers, concession stands are closed, and the world's biggest McDonald's empty. Small groups of construction workers are working to transform the venues for use in the Paralympic Games, which begin Aug. 29.

Olympic Park had been visited by more than 5 million people over the last 17 days.

It will be closed to the public until the Paralympics — and for almost a year afterwards, while some venues are torn down and others are modified. It will open in stages from next summer as the 560-acre (227-hectare) Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

— Jill Lawless — Twitter http://twitter.com/JillLawless

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HAPPY CABBIES

All good things must come to an end. And, say London's cab drivers, thank goodness for that.

While some people are sad to see the Olympics end, cab drivers are celebrating the re-opening of road lanes that had been used for athletes and other officials during the games. "It's been brutal," says Shafiq Arjaz, a 43-year-old cab driver.

— Paisley Dodds — Twitter http://twitter.com/paisleydodds

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AIRPORT GOLD

Esther Lofgren, who won gold for the U.S. rowing team, has been one of the first athletes to leave Britain.

Sporting her medal at Heathrow's special terminal for athletes on Monday, she says: "Getting to see the other athletes competing was just amazing."

She says watching Usain Bolt was a highlight, but so was hanging out with other athletes.

— Martin Benedyk — Twitter http://twitter.com/mbenedyk

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RIO PREPARES

As the London Olympics closed, the next host, Rio de Janeiro, was set to kick off four years of preparations for games that some see as Brazil's entrance onto the world stage.

Many are bracing for a rocky ride as Rio — a laid-back beach city not known for its efficiency or punctuality — rushes to build four main Olympic sites and undertake a massive infrastructure overhaul.

Rio native Joao Carlos de Figueireiro said that despite the "mess" that was sure to come, he had faith things would work out in the end.

"There are definitely things we need to work on, organization-wise," said Figueireiro, a 56-year-old barman at a neighborhood cafe. "But we're experts at pulling rabbits out of hats at the last minute and I'm sure that's what we're going to do."

— Jenny Barchfield

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TERROR-FREE OLYMPICS

There were rooftop missiles near the main venue, an imposing warship on hand, an army of undercover agents. But the 2012 Olympics turned out to be terrorism-free.

British authorities say that was no coincidence.

A day after London won the Olympic bid in 2005, homegrown suicide bombers struck during London's morning rush-hour. In the aftermath, Britain's security, intelligence and eavesdropping agencies — MI5, MI6 and GCHQ — received more money, manpower and equipment and thwarted dozens of terror plots — a major factor they say has helped to keep the games safe.

"Over the years, we've managed to make Britain a difficult place to operate in if you're a terrorist," a British security official told AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

But with post-Olympics celebrations stretching into the week and the Paralympics not wrapping up until September, Britain's security officials say their job is far from over.

Hundreds of personnel have been told to forget about vacations until next month. And the private security contractor for the Olympics, G4S, says some 5,000 guards will be on hand for the Aug. 29-Sept. 9 event.

— Paisley Dodds — Twitter http://twitter.com/paisleydodds

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RIO TAKES OVER

Rio is more than samba and Carnival.

Granted, but is it men in silver metal suits with oversized headgear?

London went into kitsch overdrive as it sampled five decades of British music Sunday night at the Olympics closing ceremony, but Rio's 2016 organizers appeared determined to out-weird them.

No matter — a beaming Pele was in the house.

Rio had me at "hello" — er, "Oi." Hey boss, can I go?

— Sheila Norman-Culp, Twitter at http://twitter.com/snormanculp

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A BRITON REFLECTS

AP's Fergus Bell, a Londoner, shares his impressions of the closing ceremony from his seat in Olympic Stadium:

Britain did it. When London Mayor Boris Johnson handed the Olympic flag to the Mayor of Rio, I think that many here were sad to see it go, though there were probably a few sighs of relief as well.

But nothing at all major went wrong. For people in this country, nothing blighted these magical weeks. It's an opinion, of course, and an insider's to boot, but here it is: We did it the way we could, we did our best and we did it well.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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TOUGH MOMENT

His face serious but his voice powerful, Gary Barlow took the stage at the very end of the London Olympics closing ceremony, singing "Rule the World" alongside his Take That bandmates with strength and poise just days after a tragedy in his own life.

Speculation had been rife that Barlow would bow out of the performance after he and his wife Dawn said Aug. 6 that their daughter had been stillborn.

At the time, the couple said they were devastated by the loss of Poppy Barlow and said their focus was "on giving her a beautiful funeral and loving our three children with all our hearts."

Barlow and his wife have a son and two daughters. Barlow, also a judge of the TV talent show "The X Factor," was organizer of June's huge Buckingham Palace concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

— Cassandra Vinograd — Twitter http://twitter.com/cassvinograd

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GAMES OVER

The London Olympics have ended. IOC President Jacques Rogge just pronounced them closed.

"We will never forget the smiles, the kindness and the support of the wonderful volunteers, the much-needed heroes of these games. You, the spectators and the public, provided the soundtrack for these games," Rogge says.

He adds: "You have shown the world the best of British hospitality."

And this: "These were happy and glorious games."

He concluded: "I declare the games of the 30th Olympiad closed."

Next stop for the Summer Games: Rio 2016.

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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FAREWELL FROM LONDON

"We lit the flame and we lit up the world," says London organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe. He's addressing the jam-packed Olympic Stadium during the waning moments of the closing ceremony.

"For the third time in its history, London was granted the trust of the Olympic movement. And once again we have shown ourselves worthy of that trust," he says. His voice is emotional.

The man who has spent the last seven years organizing London's games summed it up with these words: "When our time came, Britain, we did it right."

— Fergus Bell — Twitter http://twitter.com/fergb

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EDITOR'S NOTE — "Eyes on London" shows you the Olympics through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across the 2012 Olympic city and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.

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