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Originally published February 28, 2010 at 9:17 PM | Page modified March 1, 2010 at 9:38 AM

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Closing ceremony celebrates Games, Canada

An Olympics that began in tragedy closed with an emphasis on fun.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Top three. For Canada's elite athletes with a disability, many of whom had cruised through earlier Paralympics with little outside pressure, the 2010 Games definitely ratcheted up the expectation level. And it was accomplished with a terrific final weekend.

9:54 PM Mar 21 from
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The 2010 Paralympics, breaking new records in attendance and visibility around the world, closed out in a flash of colour and patriotism Sunday night as athletes from around the world gathered under a basketball court-sized Canadian flag and wished the Games goodbye.

9:39 PM Mar 21 from
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An exhausted John Furlong said Sunday he is happy the arduous road to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympics is virtually over. Looking wan and tired, and occasionally downcast, Furlong told reporters at a closing press conference his energetic "blue jackets" -- the volunteer backbone of two remarkable Games -- may wish for another week of fun, but he certainly doesn't.

9:38 PM Mar 21 from
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Top three. For Canada's elite athletes with a disability, many of whom had cruised through earlier Paralympics with little outside pressure, the 2010 Games definitely ratcheted up the expectation level. And it was accomplished with a terrific final weekend.

7:22 PM Mar 21 from
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When wheelchair athlete Chantal Petitclerc won 10 gold medals combined at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Summer Games, she was reserved a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. So where does that place skier Lauren Woolstencroft - who earned at least half a star with five golds at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games?

4:53 PM Mar 21 from
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Results from the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games at Vancouver/Whistler.

4:48 PM Mar 21 from
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Results from the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games at Vancouver/Whistler.

4:43 PM Mar 21 from
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When wheelchair athlete Chantal Petitclerc won 10 gold medals combined at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympic Summer Games, she was reserved a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. So where does that place skier Lauren Woolstencroft - who earned at least half a star with five golds at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games?

4:21 PM Mar 21 from
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Youth was served in the gold-medal final of Paralympic sledge hockey. Yet it was the game itself, still in its relative infancy in terms of development, that was the big winner after a terrific set of playoff-round games at UBC's Thunderbird Arena.

3:52 PM Mar 21 from
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Canada's Brian McKeever clinched a golden hat trick Sunday, after taking a gamble and using skate skis in the one-kilometre classic Nordic sprint at Whistler Paralympic Park.

3:50 PM Mar 21 from

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VANCOUVER, B.C. — An Olympics that began in tragedy closed with an emphasis on fun.

"These were excellent and very friendly games," said International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge as he ushered out the 21st Winter Olympics during Sunday night's Closing Ceremony at BC Place.

The event had a lighthearted feel throughout, beginning with an improvised skit in which the fourth arm of the torch — which had memorably not risen properly during the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 12 — finally came out of the ground.

That allowed legendary Canadian skater Catriona LeMay Doan to finally light that arm of the torch — and she applied the fire with a wide smile.

The tragedy of the first day of the Games — the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili — was noted by both Rogge and Vancouver Organizing Committee head John Furlong in their statements.

Rogge said that "together we have experienced many strong emotions. We have shared the grief of an Olympic dream cut short. The memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili will always be with us."

But mostly, as is the custom of the closing ceremonies, the emphasis was on leaving a last, happy image of the Games and the host city.

Rogge's comments were brief and didn't appear to betray any misgivings about some of the problems that plagued the Games, particularly in the early days. At one point, he praised the work of the organizers, saying "You have done it. You have won."

Furlong noted that one goal of the Games was to allow the world to get a closer look at Canada. He said he thought they succeeded in that task. "Now you know us, eh?" he said.

Furlong said he felt the Games had "lifted us up" and that Canadians were now "more in love with our country and more connected than ever before."

His biggest applause line, however, came when he referenced Canada's gold-medal hockey win over the U.S. earlier in the day saying it "will be remembered for generations."

Among the famous Canadians appearing were actors William Shatner and Michael J. Fox.

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The U.S. flag bearer during the event was nordic combined gold medalist Bill Demong.

The torch was extinguished as Canadian rock singer Neil Young performed "Long May You Run."

That served as the symbolic turning over of the Olympics to Sochi, Russia, where the 2014 Winter Games will be held.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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