Paralympics closing demonstrates Russians ready for 2014 Sochi spectacular

08:24, March 23, 2010      

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Vancouver bid farewell to the tenth Winter Paralympics on Sunday night with a closing ceremony celebrating Canada's native Indian people and welcoming in the arrival of the Sochi-era, the Russian host city for the 2014 Games.

Held in the center of Whistler Village, the mountain resort 2.5 hours northeast of Vancouver that was the venue for both the Alpine and Nordic ski events, the 90-minute ceremony opened with the athletes parading into the medal plaza just as the rain, which fell throughout the last day of competition, stopped.

In an area rich with native Indian bands, Alex Wells of the nearby Lil' wat band and his daughter got the entertainment going with a colorful hoop dance meant to describe stories about the creation of life to the sounds of drumbeat and dance.

Back by a 185-voice choir and subtle drums and bass, local resident Ali Milner set the tone for evening with her cool rendition of the national anthem, O Canada, as giant television screens beamed shots of 125 skiers of all abilities descending down Whistler Mountain with torches.

In his closing address as CEO of Vanoc, the Games organizer, John Furlong declared "Canada's Games are over. We're, all of us, Team Canada, not the few but the many".

"We did this together all of us living every moment, all the drama, like we ourselves were the athletes. We now know that sport success is in our nation's highest interest, that through sport we are a stronger nation," said the Irish immigrant.

"We found something special here in BC and while the world noticed our patriotic celebration and excitement we of Vancouver 2010 felt it. It is with humility and a little regret that we now say goodbye."

The show then started to pick-up with a performance by Canadian chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk.

Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer from Canada's far north, then took the stage with her rendition of a traditional Arctic song, as six Inuit blanket tosser from the Northwest Territories appeared in the center of the athletes seating area.

Clutching onto a "blanket" made of seal or walrus skins, the tradition dates back to a time when hunters would toss a member high in the air so he or she could spot a herd of caribou off in the horizon.

Today, the premise of the game is he or she who is tossed highest wins.

Endo Takayuki, captain of Japan's silver medal winning men's sledge hockey team, and Canadian Collette Bourgonje, a veteran of nine Paralympics, both summer and winter, were then recognized with the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award.

Paralympics closing demonstrates Russians ready for 2014 Sochi spectacular 2010-03-22 15:12:55 FeedbackPrintRSS

Named after a South Korean doctor, the recognition, where the recipients are awarded a solid gold, 75-gram medal worth about US$5,000, is awarded to those who best exemplify the spirit of the Paralympics.

Takayuki, who has performed such feats as climbing up and down Japan' s famed Mt. Fuji on his hands despite being born without legs, works tirelessly to share his experiences with others in effort to remove any "walls" between the abled and disabled.

"My greatest goal here is to show the world the best of my abilities, to bring good results from my performance at these Games, and hope to bring some kind of legacy to inspire the world and to promote understanding of disabled people and disability sports," he said prior to the ceremony.

Bourgonje, a winner of 10 medals in wheelchair racing and cross-country skiing, called the honor at the top of her numerous recognitions over the years.

"This is the end of my Paralympic journey and it' s been pure gold,"said the 47-year-old proponent of healthy living for everyone. "These Games have raised the profile of the Paralympic movement and I know it has changed attitudes. I hope it has gotten into the hearts and minds of all Canadians."

Following a closing speech from Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, and the handover of the Paralympic flag from the mayors of Whistler and Vancouver to their counterpart in Sochi, the Russians provided a dazzling preview of what to expect at the mountain resort town on the Black Sea.

Back by the works of acclaimed sand animation artist Artur Kirillov whose creations were being beamed live onto the big screen to the music of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, Olesya Vladykina and her partner appeared in an impressive figure skating routine.

Vladykina, a champion swimmer who lost her hand in an accident and then re-trained to win the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2008 Beijing Paraylmpics, learned to skate specifically for the ceremony to demonstrate what can be done through desire and willpower.

Following a performance by visually-impaired singer Diana Gurtskaya, Georgia's representative in the 2008 Eurovision song contest, Maxim Sedakov wowed the audience of about 10,000 people with a wheelchair break-dancing routine.

After giant balls, an iconic image of Sochi, were floated out over the audience, the Paralympic flame was extinguished and with that, the Games were over.

Source: Xinhua
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