winner's podium and grief after falling short at the climax of four years of gruelling effort. But there were laughs and gaffes aplenty.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth attends the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium. (Reuters)
Red-faced London officials were forced to apologise even before the opening ceremony for insulting the North Korean women's soccer team by raising the flag of their sworn enemy South Korea ahead of a match against Colombia.
The North Koreans refused to take to the field, delaying the match in what the tabloid Sun described as a "bad Korea move".
The Games began in earnest with an opening ceremony starring Britain's 86-year-old Queen Elizabeth appearing to skydive from a helicopter with James Bond.
"Good evening, Mr. Bond," is her only line in her film debut.
Presidential plaudits flowed for medal winners, though Colombia's first Olympic judo medal winner Yuri Alvear was less impressed when President Juan Manuel Santos rang her on the way to collect her medal.
"I told him I would call him back when the ceremony finished," Alvear said with a laugh.
London's eccentric and loquacious Mayor Boris Johnson fell rather awkwardly silent last week when he got stuck dangling from a zip wire, waving two Union flags in the drizzling rain.
"Unlike Team GB, he won't be bagging any gold medals today," said a spokeswoman for the mayor after the incident.
There were moments of anger too. Thousands of people frustrated by a ticketing system which left many empty-handed were furious at TV coverage from events in the early stages of the Games showing rows of vacant seats from soccer to swimming.
As debate hotted up, one Twitter user provided a sympathetic look at life from the view of an empty seat with @OlympicSeat, whose profile reads: "I feel nothing but emptiness."
Olympic volunteers and the Conga-line loving soldiers whose good cheer was unflagging and one helper's dead-pan delivery caught on video website YouTube left millions laughing.
The "happiest Olympic worker" film shows a Games volunteer telling visitors through a megaphone that her mouth is dry with Olympic excitement. "I believe we're all cheering on the inside," she drones.
There were warnings as well. Olympic chiefs urged youthful athletes ready to let rip after months of monastic dedication to drink "sensibly" once they hit the celebration trail.
But there was anything but restraint for Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who declared an early night at one point only to be photographed later with three members of the Swedish women's handball team. Early on Sunday morning Bolt dazzled dancers at a London night club with a turn in the DJ booth.
"I am a legend," Bolt shouted out to the packed dancefloor from the decks with his arms raised in the air.
"Blind drunk at the minute," tweeted cycling sensation, Bradley Wiggins. Double gold medal British cyclists Laura Trott and Jason Kenny had their "velodromance" caught on camera.
Photographers snapped the two drinking beer and larking about with Britain's Prince Harry at beach volleyball before cosying up for a smooch.
"These things are always very tricky after copious amounts of alcohol have been taken," Kenny was quoted as saying when asked whether they were "an item".
And on the amorous front, athletes were looked after by London officials who provided 150,000 condoms.
Olympic science gave us "hotpants" to keep muscles warm and revealed ancient Olympians ate raw animal testicles.
British cycling's beloved "brain trainer" Steve Peters explained how athletes win with "chimp management" by dispelling emotional and sometimes irrational thoughts before a race that he calls chimps.
"(I) grab the chimp by the scruff of the neck and get it into a box. I know their chimps really well," he said.
But Mayor Johnson, whose popularity has risen during London 2012, may have delivered the funniest line on the Games.
"'Inspire a generation' is our motto. Not necessarily 'Create a generation', which is what they sometimes get up to in the Olympic village."