By Lanford Beard
Updated August 13, 2012 at 12:46 PM EDT
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Yes, the Flame technically was extinguished last night in London, but its elegance — its power — rests in its symbolism. Pomp and circumstance aside, the Olympic Flame lives on whether a cauldron is alight or not. It never really goes out. This sentiment has a tendency to lapse into a sort of greeting-card hokiness that viewers easily gloss over, but the creative minds behind these Games would not allow that kind of dismissal. They not only embraced the metaphor, they took it a step farther and made it tangible.

By constructing one giant Flame from scores of individual torches engraved with the names of each athletic delegation, they offered a poetic visualization of the spirit of unity that underpins the Games. More over, this particular Flame ensured that each country had its own torch to take home — a poignant parting gift that quite literally distributed a piece of the Games to everyone, not just medal winners and/or countries with an outside shot of hosting a future Games.

Add to that another arresting visual during last night’s Closing Ceremony: A phoenix rising over the Flame. This Games’ end is also a beginning — not only the beginning of preparations for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, but also the beginning of countless dreams of future Olympians. During the July 27 Opening Ceremonies, this same spirit was on display when organizers decided to forgo choosing a single person to light the Flame and instead selected a group of teenagers with Olympic aspirations to symbolize the generations of Olympians to come. Much has been made in the last few weeks that many of this year’s athletes decided to dedicate their blood, sweat, and tears to sports while watching past Games. Seeing the success of their forebears, they vowed to set their goals as high as the stars. As such, it was only appropriate that the striking final visual of last night’s Closing Ceremony made spectators look upward, taking in points of light as they considered their own part — no matter how small — in the Olympics.

Stud Runners-up:

London Olympic chairman Lord Sebastian Coe, for his heartfelt speech: “To all the Olympians who came to London to compete, thank you. Those of us who came to watch witnessed moments of heroism and heartbreak that will live long in the memory. You have our admiration and our congratulations. 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. On this last day I can conclude with these words: When our time came, Britain, we did it right. Thank you.”

U-S-A! U-S-A! With the Dream Team emerging victorious over Spain and a powerful final weekend, Team America concluded this Olympic Games with 46 gold medals, 29 silvers, and 29 bronzes — 17 more total medals (and eight more golds) than the nearest competitor, China.

The last name Kiprotich. Two men with this surname medaled in today’s marathon: Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, who took gold in a surprise victory over predicted frontrunner and ultimate bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich of Kenya. Both men finished the 26.2-mile race in under 2 hours, 10 minutes. My legs hurt just thinking about it.

Pelé! Brazil’s hero elicited roars from the Closing Ceremony audience when he entered the stadium, heralded by a massive fireworks display, at the end of the Brazilian showcase. (Honorable mention: Sexy samba janitor — those hips don’t lie.)

Read more:

EW’s Olympics Hub

London Olympics: Studs of the Day

POLL: Who is the All-Around Stud of the 2012 Olympics?

Replay EW’s Olympics Closing Ceremony live chat!