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Athletes fly home as flame goes out
Olympic athletes praised the London Games as the best ever - as the Mayor of London admitted he struggled to hand back the Olympic flag.
As thousands of fans and sports stars made their way home they applauded games organisers and volunteers for putting on a show that was the envy of the world.
Flying home to California, water polo gold winner Tumua Anae, 23, said: "The Games were awesome. The people were so good to us. All the volunteers were so friendly and gave us a lot of support.
"I have to say to Britain - you guys did a great job."
Dutch hockey gold medallist Kim Lammers said: "The volunteers were so great. Everything was so good. The crowd was good and also during our match against GB they were screaming for everybody and it was great. Everything was perfect."
Gymnast Epke Zonderland, returning to the Netherlands with a gold medal for the men's horizontal bar, said it was a "perfect" experience and "everything was taken care of".
Belgian Hockey player Jill Boon added: "It was amazing, London did it well."
As the compliments poured in, London Mayor Boris Johnson - who is riding high in popular opinion for his role in the Games - said he had a "momentary mad desire" to refuse to give the Olympic flag back to International Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge.
He said: "If you were to say to me that we have just held the greatest games ever in Britain, I would say you are on the right track."
He added: "But I suppose there are two emotions - one is obviously some sadness that it is all over, because it's been an amazing experience, but also a great relief because there is no doubt it has been a prodigious exertion by London and by Londoners."
He added the Games was "the most extraordinary event we can remember in our lifetimes and which we will remember for the rest of our lives".
The fortnight was also a shot in the arm for the capital's economy, Mr Johnson said.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt agreed, saying: "This has been two weeks when Britain didn't just surprise the world but surprised itself."
London 2012 chairman Lord Coe said: "On the first day of these Games I said we were determined to do it right. I said that these Games would see the best of us."
Describing the 17-day event as "a wonderful Games in a wonderful city", he added: "We lit the flame and lit up the world."
Writing in a guide to the closing ceremony Prince Harry said the "extraordinary" event had touched people's hearts and captured their imaginations.
As the nation breathed a sigh of relief at the stunning success of the Games, Lord Moynihan, who helped steer Team GB to 29 golds and third place in the medal table, stood down as the British Olympic Association (BOA) chief.
He will stay on as chairman until an election is held in November to find a successor but wrote to the BOA board to notify members.
Summing up how the majority of Britons feel about the Games, he wrote: "The last two weeks have united and inspired the whole country and have surpassed all expectations.
"I am enormously proud to be able to say that with your help, Team GB has not only succeeded at London 2012, it has excelled.
"The years of hard work and preparation undertaken by everyone at the BOA have paid historic dividends through the delivery of so many outstanding personal bests by our athletes."
The Games' success was reflected in the massive viewing figures for last night's closing ceremony.
The musical celebration, which featured performances by acts such as Take That and the Spice Girls, drew an average 23.2 million to the BBC - 200,000 fewer than the number of people who saw Danny Boyle's mesmerising launch a fortnight earlier.
A peak audience of 26.3 million was watching the event - created by artistic director Kim Gavin - at its height on BBC1 and digital channels at 9.35pm.