New Delhi - The curtain fell on the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi on Thursday evening with a closing ceremony that celebrated the end of 11 days of sport with a mix of relief and jubilation.
In the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, a two-and-a-half hour show of dance, music and fireworks gave the finishing sparkle to an event that survived rocky preparations and daily operational hiccups.
With many Indians pointing out that pessimistic international expectations had been proved wrong, organisers said their decision to hold the Games in fast-developing India was a major gamble that had paid off.
Unfinished athletes' accommodation, security fears, big-name withdrawals and poor ticket sales were among a myriad of difficulties that got the Games off to an uncertain start.
But the occasion closed on a high after Indian athletes performed beyond all expectations to finish second in the overall medals table, sneaking ahead of England with a badminton gold late on Thursday.
Attendances at most venues improved dramatically, no militant attack materialised, and glitches over transport, and a stomach bug among swimmers were all overcome.
The closing ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Britain's Prince Edward, and Suresh Kalmadi - the chairman of the organising committee who bore much of the criticism about the Games.
India's sporting highlights included gold for the women's 4x400m relay team in the main stadium which was finally filled with a packed and noisy crowd, and ten wrestling golds.
Doubts over the long-term prospects for the Commonwealth Games - the third largest multi-sport event in the world after the Summer Olympics and the Asian Games - were brushed aside as the event closed.
The next Games will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2014 where organisers will focus on solving Delhi's struggle to attract many world-class stars.
Glasgow may also balk at matching the cost of the Delhi extravaganza, which is thought to have cost up to six billion dollars.
The Games, in which 71 nations, nearly all from the former British Empire, compete, remains an unusual blend of popular sports such as athletics and lesser known ones such as lawn bowls and netball.
Australia led the medals' table by a distance with 74 golds to India's 38 and England's 37. It also provided the stars of the Games with Alicia Coutts winning five golds in the pool and swimmer Leisel Jones collecting the tenth Commonwealth gold of her career.