By Lester holt
BEIJING (KHNL) - After 17 days of fanfare, sweat, tears, fierce competition and friendly admiration, the games of the 29th olympiad have come to an end with a spectacular closing ceremony.
State controlled media say the Olympics have left China a more confident and open nation. Human rights activists and the U.S. government have a very different take, however.
Meantime thousands of athletes, spectators and journalists are filing out of town but not before a spectacular Sunday night send off.
The Beijing games ended as they began, with a bang. From soaring drummers, high flying acts, and even a towering human kaleidoscope, the bird's nest was jumping for joy, celebrating the athletes, and the pride of a billion Chinese.
"I just think the people have done such a phenomenal job."
If all this is a tough act for the next summer Olympic hosts to follow, they weren't showing it as a London double decker bus drove into the stadium to accept the hand over for the 2012 games. An edgy street theater-like performance was capped with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.
The evening followed a thrilling final day of competition, including gold medal victories for both the American men's volleyball team and the men's basketball team, which held off Spain, redeeming itself from a bronze finish four years ago.
In the final tally, the USA claimed the most overall medals with 110 including 8 golds for swimming phenom Michael Phelps, plus a place in Olympic history and it earned him a rousing welcome during a Sunday appearance in London.
China closely trailed the U.S. in medals, but ended up with the most number of gold. Still, China, which spent more than $40 billion on these games hopes to claim an even larger victory, a stronger sense of national pride, and more respect abroad.
"You suddenly see there is a huge middle class Chinese who obviously feel confident and proud of themselves and of their own country," said Chinese TV host Yang Lan.
Though Beijing managed to clear the air in time for the games, it failed to fully live up to its promise to be more open.
"Press freedom and media freedom are one of the last things that comes to China through the process of reform," said Joshua Cooper, NBC China analyst.
Internet censoring, and a swift crackdown on protests, brought criticism from the U.S. and expressions of disappointment from Olympic officials.
We acknowledge that the situation isn't perfect," said OC president Jacques Rogge. "We acknowledge at the same time that the situation was a major change to before the games."