Sacred ceremony ends Beijing Games
In a state which has no God, the Olympics has been a religion - together with its own cathedrals, rituals, and sacred flames. Everyone in China was meant to be a worshipper. If you didn't believe in the Games, you were dismissed as a heretic.
It all ended tonight with a suitably sacred ceremony in the Bird's Nest Stadium. Our camera position was a few metres away from the VIP section. China's leaders sat in the front row with the IOC President Jacques Rogge. On each of their desks was a pair of binoculars and also a pen and paper (just in case any of them suddenly felt moved to write a speech).
The King and Queen of Sweden sat a bit further back - democratically wearing their official Olympic accreditation round their necks.
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown was tucked back in the fifth row, next to China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (a man who's clearly been on put on foreign leader duty - Mr Jiechi sat next to President Bush during the basketball).
London's mayor, Boris Johnson, looked a little out of place amid the crisp, well-tailored Chinese officials around him. He walked onto the stage, semi-saluting as he went (correct protocol seemed to call for a more subdued royal wave instead).
He then took part in a rather solemn three-way Olympic flag waving contest. The mayor of Beijing went first and managed to get the flag slightly tangled up. He handed it to Jacques Rogge, who waved it and semi-untangled it. Boris Johnson tried not to get swallowed by the flag. He eventually got it right and waved away.
London then began its eight-minute show. The biggest cheer of the entire night came when David Beckham rose up from the 2012 bus (if ever China decides to hold elections, Beckham might have a reasonable chance of getting a seat on the Chinese Politburo).
Then came the final moment of a decade of work. The Olympic flame (always known here as the "sacred flame") was put out.
A billion people will now have to find something else to believe in.