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Turin bids ciao to Paralympics

March 19 2006
CBC Sports

The 2006 Paralympic Winter Games wrapped up with a dazzling display of light and sound, and a nod to Vancouver.

Sunday's closing ceremony in Turin featured fireworks and a performance by Patti Smith, who was one of about 300 performers who joined athletes from 39 countries at Turin's Piazza Castello for a show centred around the theme of transition between winter and spring.

The two-hour performance included tribal dancing and music ranging from opera to songs from the film Mary Poppins.

Colette Bourgonje of Saskatoon, who won two bronze medals in cross-country sit-skiing in what was her fifth Winter Paralympics, served as Canada's flag-bearer during the closing festivities.

Games officials also took part in a special ceremony dedicated to the 2010 Paralympics, which will take place in Vancouver.

RCMP officers presented a Canadian flag, which was raised for a playing of the national anthem as images featuring Canadian scenery were shown on a large screen.

Vancouver singer Jim Byrnes, who lost his legs in a car accident, performed his song "Of Whom Will I Be Afraid."

Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, who is a quadriplegic, received the Paralympic flag in a specially-designed holster attached to his wheelchair.

"We have put a lot of effort into analysing what happened here," Sullivan told the Canadian Press. "I think that is going to translate into real improvements. I think we are going to exceed what we accomplished here in Turin."

Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, wrapped up Sunday's show by declaring the ninth Paralympics closed.

"I call upon Paralympic athletes all over the world to meet again in Vancouver, Canada, in four years time, where once again you will inspire and excite the world with your sporting excellence," Craven said.

Canadian athletes largely exceeded expectations at the Torino Games, winning 13 medals. That included five golds, the sixth-most at the Games

The Canadian Paralympic Committee had set a goal of a top-10 finish in gold medals.

"We came with a mission and that mission was to get on top of the podium and excel," Marg McGregor, the Canadian team's chef de mission, told the Canadian Press. "It's like a Cinderella story for us."

Cross-country skier Brian McKeever of Canmore, Alta., was the star of the Games for Canada. The 26-year-old, along with his guide and brother, Robin, won almost a quarter of Canada's medals, finishing with two gold, a silver and a bronze.



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