'Best Winter Paralympics Ever' Close in Sochi
Published: March 17, 2014 (Issue # 1801)
International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven declared the Sochi Games closed Sunday in a ceremony celebrating the ambition and ability of disabled people.
The uplifting and colorful ceremony brought down the curtain on the XIth Paralympic Winter Games. Nine days of competition which featured 547 disabled athletes from 45 countries ended as the Paralympic flame was extinguished on its tower in SochiТs Olympic Park.
The Paralympic flag passed to the organizers of the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, who staged a brief show featuring traditional dance and calligraphy.
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УDo you sense a greater degree of liberation whether here in Sochi, in wider Russia or throughout the world? Well I do, I can tell you,Ф said Craven, who peppered his closing speech with Russian words. УThe Paralympic spirit has united and infected us all.Ф
He added: "I thank you all and say with great pleasure, Sochi 2014 - the best Paralympic Winter Games ever."
As at the Olympics a month before, Russia topped the final standings, winning a total of 80 Winter Paralympic medals, more than any country in history.
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УThe Paralympic Games have become a catalyst for our efforts to create a barrier-free environment in Russia,Ф Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said. УThe Games are over, but we promise that this important work will continue throughout our vast country.Ф
Themed around the slogan УReaching the Impossible,Ф the closing ceremony featured a nod to Russian pioneers of abstract art, but was otherwise relentlessly high-tempo, with a hip-hop dance sequence that celebrated the computer game УTetris,Ф designed by Russian Alexei Pazhitnov in the 1980s.
In a rare nod to non-Russian culture at any of the Sochi Olympic or Paralympic ceremonies, Western music including Led Zeppelin and the УMission ImpossibleФ theme tune played as the Tetris blocks were raised to reveal the slogan УImpossible.Ф
That changed to УIТm PossibleФ as disabled performer Alexei Chuvashev climbed a rope to insert the crucial apostrophe.
A sequence followed mixing breakdancing, traditional Cossack dance and performances by wheelchair dancers, all dressed in the colors of the Russian flag.
The Sochi Games featured 72 medal events in five sports, the highest number for any Winter Paralympics to date.
Around 325,000 tickets were sold for the Sochi Paralympics, organizers said earlier in the day. That is around 90,000 more than the Winter Games record set by Vancouver in 2010.
The next Paralympics are the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.