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Ben Ainslie To Carry Olympic Flag For Team GB At Closing Ceremony

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Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history, will carry the flag for the British team at Sunday's closing ceremony.

London 2012 saw Ainslie, 35, win his fourth consecutive gold to add to the silver he won in his first Olympics as a 19-year-old in Atlanta in 1996.

The hard-fought gold on Weymouth's waters, when he battled from a losing position, confirmed his place in the record books surpassing the four consecutive gold won by Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom.

Ainslie, who is unlikely to compete at another Olympics, said: "It's a really proud moment for me and for sailing to have such an involvement at the end of what's been such an amazing Games for the whole country.

"There have been so many people involved in making these Games so special, so I think one thing you'd say on behalf of all the athletes is thanks so much to everyone involved - all the volunteers, and the whole nation for getting behind the team.

"It's been our best ever performance at the Olympics, and I think a lot of that comes down to having so much fantastic home support."

The British Olympic Association's team leaders named Ainslie as flagbearer ahead of fellow gold medallists rower Kath Grainger plus cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton.

Team GB's Chef de Mission Andy Hunt said: "In becoming the most decorated sailor in Olympic history, Ben has earned the honour of leading our delegation into the closing ceremony of these extraordinary Games.

"As we pass the Olympic baton on to Rio, we as a team are privileged to have Ben lead the way."

The Olympic closing ceremony will be "party, party, party," according to London 2012 chairman Lord Coe.

Artistic director Kim Gavin said: "We want it to be the best after-show party there has ever been."

Tomorrow's two hour and 45 minute grand finale starts with Elgar and Waterloo Sunset at 9pm.

"Any more than that and we would spoil the surprise," Mr Gavin said at a press conference.

"We are still rehearsing and waiting for the final line-up."

There will be just hours, starting at 11pm tonight, to turn the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, where athletes such as Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Usain Bolt struck gold, into an arena fit for a showbiz spectacular.

The handover from London 2012 to the Rio 2016 team will take place along with the extinguishing of the Olympic Flame, which has stayed alight throughout the competition. This signals the end of the Games.

Traditionally, it is a chance to celebrate what the athletes have achieved and also for a massive party.

The 2012 closing ceremony - called A Symphony of British Music - will celebrate music as one of Britain's strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years.

Mr Gavin said: "It is about British creativity in the arts.

"There is a hell of a lot of talent and music and a hell of a lot of show in the show."

It is set to be more relaxed than the Danny Boyle-masterminded opening ceremony which was packed with references to British history and culture.

The sight of pop stars such as the Spice Girls, George Michael, the Pet Shop Boys, Jessie J and Tinie Tempah, who have been photographed at rehearsals, may have whetted the public's appetite.

Mr Gavin said: "I wanted to make a very exciting after-show party. I wanted to make it a celebration. We have got 15 minutes of the athletes walking in down through the audience.

"We do have a lot of music in there, without giving too much away.

"We start with the big opening scene saying `we are in London'.

"There is more than just music. It is not just the songs - it is visually creative.

"When we ran the show the other day it felt like very minimal speeches and protocol. It flows really well and I am really proud of it."

Then there is eight minutes of the handover to Rio 2016, the next host Olympic city.

More than 4,100 performers, including 3,500 adult volunteers and 380 schoolchildren from the six east London host boroughs, are involved in the ceremony.

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