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By Tom Rivers
26 August 2008
Triumphantly returning home after their best medal total in a century, British athletes and government officials turn their attention now to the next summer games in four years in London. After Beijing bid farewell to the 2008 Olympics, celebrations broke out in Britain to usher in London's turn to host. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from the British capital.
While the world ponders the legacy of the Beijing games, the Olympic flag has been handed over to London where the hard work is underway in preparation for the 2012 summer games.
|Royal Air Force Red Arrows fly over Buckingham Palace as crowds applaud during a live London 2012 concert in central London, 24 Aug 2008|
London has been here before. It hosted the games in 1908 and in 1948, but London today is a very different city than the one that last hosted the Olympics in the austere years right after the end of World War two.
In Beijing, Britain produced its best results in a century, finishing four overall on the table with 47 medals, including 19 golds.
Flying into London's Heathrow Airport, Team Great Britain was greeted with cheers. Prime Minister Gordon Brown was among those welcoming home the country's olympic stars.
Among those on the special flight was the chairman of the London organizing committee and a former 1,500-meter Olympic gold winner, Sebastian Coe. He says Beijing as a venue and the performance of the British team there provides a great springboard for the upcoming London games.
"Fantastic. Team G.B. [Great Britain] have just provided us with the most extraordinary platform," he said. "It is one we could not have possibly imagined when we came here and it is just the opportunity just to drive the project for us but take nothing away from those guys who just performed way beyond what I think any of us really expected."
Greeting her fellow British athletes homes was Nicole Cooke who captured the country's first gold medal in Beijing in the Women's cycling road race. She is also excited about the London games.
"Now it is not just a case of the athletes and the sporting part, but it is we are going to host it," she said. "So, there is so much more to do and I think it is something, we have got the momentum now and I think the public really is behind it now, so, let us go forward. I think, 'Yeah, we have got a perfect opportunity."
On Sunday, more than 400 flags were raised across Britain to mark the countdown to the 2012 games. Street parties as well broke out. The biggest party was staged just outside of Buckingham Palace, where 40,000 showed up for a pop concert.
London Mayor Boris Johnson promises a great games in four years that he says will draw on the wit, flair, imagination and ingenuity of the British people.