Even as Emeli Sandé kicked off the closing ceremony, rumours circulated about what the show would entail. Some of them seemed redolent of the spirit of wild optimism that the Olympics seem to have engendered in the UK.
Had the organisers convinced Kate Bush to perform live, 33 years after her last solo gigs ? Was the heavily-pregnant Adele really going to appear, a performance that would have carried with it the possibility of the Olympics being concluded with the sight of a woman giving birth live onstage ? And would Ed Sheeran be performing with a reformed Pink Floyd ? He said yes, the former members of Pink Floyd said not and the former members of Pink Floyd turned out to be right: as with all the other rumours, it turned out to be false.
Perhaps his backing band – which in fairness contained the drummer from Pink Floyd – just told him they were Pink Floyd and, buoyed by the positive atmosphere of the past fortnight, he bought it.
Other rumours suggested that things were getting back to normal, and that a certain cynicism was once more creeping back into the British mindset. Would the Spice Girls sing live ? "I'm dreading the cacophony of moaning if they mime," offered one Spice supporter on Twitter, thus raising the fearful thought of the cacophony if they didn't mime.
As it turned out, miming or not, they arrived hot on the heels of Jessie J, performing Price Tag from the back of a moving car you rather wished would keep going straight out of the stadium, and were thus greeted with an almost hysterical gratitude.
Occasionally, the music at the Opening Ceremony was noticeably more recherche than you might have expected: before their track Olympian came blaring out of the speakers, you would have got fairly long odds on an appearance by leftfield electronic duo Fuck Buttons, no matter how appositely their material was titled. But, with the greatest of respect to the musicians involved, at the opening ceremony the soundtrack played a supporting role to the spectacle. In the closing ceremony it was significantly foregrounded, which meant nothing similar was ever likely to happen, lest it bring about a pronounced case of the nonplussed WTFs ? among the global viewing audience. They stuck with big acts doing their biggest hits, or indeed other people's: you could argue that amounted to playing it safe, but equally, if you've got to have Liam Gallagher, you might as well have him singing Wonderwall.
And who doesn't want to see the Pet Shop Boys performing West End Girls, particularly when they do it wearing gigantic conical hats while circling the stadium in the back of two rickshaws covered in fluorescent orange origami ? Only George Michael favoured the watching world with a new song, thus answering at a stroke the question of what it would take to dampen the spirits lifted by the preceding fortnight's events.
Elsewhere, Elbow performed Open Arms – there's something sweetly improbable about the world's athletes flooding into the stadium to the strains of a song about a community centre in Bury – as well adhering to the strictly-enforced law that demands no televised sporting event can be allowed to conclude without the playing of One Day Like This. It tells you something about the loveliness of the song itself that it still retains an ability to tug at the heartstrings despite its ubiquity.
Stuck with the famously thankless task of trying to please all the people all the time, the closing ceremony certainly wasn't an event without some fairly substantial musical longeurs. There were moments when you began to wonder if the Olympics were the only thing we had to hand over to Rio: could the Brazilians not be coerced into taking Russell Brand off our hands while they were about it ?
At other times, you started to think wistfully about some of the wilder rumours that had circulated, and wishing they'd come to pass, however improbable they seemed. Not least the one involving Queen performing with Freddie Mercury in hologram form. As it turned out, they performed with Jessie J, which couldn't help but seem a bit anti-climactic if you'd expected the spectre of rock's greatest showman flickering in 3D.
The Who closed proceedings, but the sense that the night was lacking a genuinely gasp-inducing moment hung around. Then again, you could argue that there's been enough of them over the last couple of weeks to last anyone a lifetime. The closing ceremony didn't quite live up to what had preceded it. Perhaps nothing could.
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image: © Fighting Irish 1977