By Clark Ainsworth
BBC News, London
Carnival-goer Aida Asefaw said the street parade was about unity
As the world's focus shifts from Beijing to London the Notting Hill Carnival offers a glimpse of how some of the 2012 festivities might look.
This year's theme was Welcoming the World, and to those who took part it was more diverse than ever.
Young and old danced through the crowded west London streets on Bank Holiday Monday hoping to show the world the real face of London.
People from all backgrounds were united by the infectious Caribbean rhythms.
Monday in Notting Hill is traditionally the busier of the two days and, despite a slow start, by midday thousands of people were dancing to the sound systems and watching the scores of Mas bands, steel bands and floats making their way around the parade route.
The Metropolitan Police estimated that about 600,000 revellers enjoyed the Bank Holiday sights, sounds, smells and tastes in Notting Hill.
By the end of the festivities people were expected to have consumed five tons of chicken, a ton of rice and peas and 30,000 corn cobs.
Patricia Brown, 46, of Hornsea, has been helping to run a stall selling traditional Jamaican fare for the past two days.
She said: "We've got jerk chicken, patties, curried goat and rice and peas.
"Yesterday was a really good day. It's been a little bit slow far today but it will pick up later."
Revellers tucked into tasty food such as jerk chicken and rice and peas
She added: "Carnival shows the world that we can all unite.
"It's all about the pretty girls and handsome men and playing things that you don't usually do."
Despite fears that the economic squeeze might affect the scale of some of the smaller mas bands the spectacular costumes that were on show certainly dazzled the crowds.
And for the thousands of people taking part in the procession this year's event was as special as ever.
Aida Asefaw, 33, of Burrokeets Mas band, has been attending carnival for 14 years.
She said: "This is the best street carnival in Europe. People come to London just for this.
"It's all about unity - no race, no creed, no colour, no gender.
"Symphony of Life is the Burrokeets' theme this year. We are originally a Trinidad franchise band but we welcome everyone.
"We cater mostly for the young but as you can see we have grandparents taking part."
The Welcoming the World carnival theme was particularly apt for Imperial College London student Chang Lui.
The 44th Notting Hill carnival was said to be more diverse than ever
The 23-year-old from the Henan Province in China was part of the Confederation of Chinese Associations procession.
He said: "The audience has been dancing with us. It's wild.
"We want to show the people we are enjoying ourselves and bring joy to people here."
Seasoned carnival-goer, Frank James, 38, said he was enjoying this year's event as much as the 30 he had previously been to.
He said: "It's lost some of its size, however I think it's actually more multi-cultural than years gone by.
"It's created a lot more diversity which is better for everyone.
"The spirit of carnival is everywhere."