March 21, 2010
Golden Goodbye, Paralympics
come to a close
The Paralympic flag has been lowered in Whistler
and the flame has been extinguished, bringing to an end 10 days
of competition which saw Canada set new standards when it comes
to medals won and the promotion of the Paralympic movement.
In declaring the Paralympic Games closed, International
Paralympic President Sir Philip Craven called them "the best
ever" Games while noting that the medals were among the most
beautiful he had seen.
Despite cloudy skies and dropping temperatures,
thousands packed the celebration plaza in Whistler. Athletes cheerfully
entered along a parade route lined with hundreds more who couldn't
get tickets to the sold out event.
The program included performances by an Inuit throat
singer, a Lil'wat Nation hoop dancer and Winnipeg's Chantal Kreviazuk.
The Disabled Skiers Association of B.C. led a torch
light ski down Whistler Mountain. Approximately 125 skiers of
all ages made their way down the mountain using various modes
of transportation - from traditional skis and poles to sit-skis.
As the national anthem was being sung, a huge Canadian
flag was unfurled over the audience gathered to watch the ceremony
in the stadium.
"You reflect the best kind of human character,
integrity and focus," said VANOC chief executive officer
John Furlong of the athletes gathered in the stadium. "Many
of you will go home as champions. All of you will go home as winners."
"Lauren (Woolstencroft), Brian (McKeever),
Viviane (Forest) - you are Canada's newest heroes," he said
of Canada's top three medal recipients of these Games. "Every
Canadian child knows who you are,"
"Canada's Games are over -- we did it!"
"If we have had success, it was because all
33 million Canadians for an instant became loyal trusted team
mates. We were 'Team Canada - Equipe Canada' -- not the few but
the many. We did this together -- all of us living every moment
and all the drama like we ourselves were the athletes."
Organizers of these games were the first to promote
the Olympics and Paralympics together, including by jointly naming
some venues such as the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre curling
"What that's done for the Paralympic movement
is take it to a whole new level," said Blair McIntosh, Chef
de Mission for the Canadian Paralympic Committee, adding that
the lessons for London's summer games in 2012 and Sochi in 2014
will be to prepare for more public interest.
"Future hosts can gain from Vancouver and Whistler's
awareness and promotion of the Paralympics with the Olympics,"
Cross-Country sit skier Colette Bourgonja, who won
Canada's first medal of the Paralympic Games, was presented with
the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award honouring elite athletes
with a disability who demonstrate exceptional determination overcoming
adversity through sport and the Paralympic Games.