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Beijing immersed in joy, relief as Games conclude
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The Olympic host city of Beijing was immersed in joy and relief as the huge scroll-shaped cauldron atop the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, was extinguished on Sunday after the 16 days of competition.

As spectacular firework kicked off the extravaganza in the Bird's Nest, crowds flooded the capital's downtown streets to share the Olympic glee.

Waving her national flags, Holly Walker was busy posing for cameras of the passersby in Xidan, a local business district.

"I hope this closing ceremony can turn to be a more relaxing waving party," the New Zealand tourist said.

The closing ceremony, which was described as "a craze party for all human beings " by Zhang Yimou, director of the Games' opening and closing galas, did live up to its name when "Let's party in the name of Olympics" became a catch phrase on the night.

In the refurbished ancient Qianmen Street, which runs along the city's north-south axis to the south of Tian'anmen Square, locals with red "Go China" headbands and "Welcome to Beijing" T-shirt were sitting along the road, waiting for the fireworks performance.

"Tonight, with all the memories and happiness, is a perfect conclusion for the Games," said Li Tianxue, a college student from the northeastern Liaoning Province, with a camera in hand.

"China won altogether 100 medals in Beijing, which, to my understanding, is a representation of the country's perfect performance over the past 16 days."

But most Beijing families have chosen to enjoy the night of excitement at home in front of the TV sets.

"When athletes in the Bird's Nest shouted, danced and sang in front of the camera, I did feel their joy," said Liu Han, a 14-year-old girl with her father and mother sitting in their cozy home in southern Beijing.

"It has been like festivals all these days," she said.

"I do not want them to go because it's hard to say goodbye," added the girl, referring to the theme song of the Games' closing ceremony "It's Hard To Say Goodbye."

At the Olympic village, volunteers were watching the closing ceremony in TV between shifts, waving goodbye to the athletes moving out.

"At the ceremony, wreaths were presented to the Olympic volunteer representatives, which meant so much to me," said Chen Zhenyin, a volunteer from the southern Fujian Province. "I felt what I have been doing all these days was so worthwhile."

Chen worked as an identification inspector at the entrance of the Olympic Village over the past month, which he called a "life-long memory."

"I am greatly relieved and proud because I made no mistake in the month," he said. "I will definitely sleep for a whole day after getting back home because it was a really physically-challenging month."

Some of Chen's peers chose to enjoy the night in Beijing's sleepless bars.

Zhang Zhifeng, a 23-year-old volunteer who served in the Bird's Nest, cheered when the fireworks illuminated the city.

"It's a night of celebration and relief," she said, waving her hands where there were five colorful Olympic wristbands.

Zhang has been working in the Bird's Nest since May. "In the past month, I have spoken much more English than I had ever did in all my life," she added. "Now I feel all I have done makes me part of the Games."

The Olympic glee was also shared by those who live in darkness in the illuminated city.

In a room barely 20 square meters in size on Gulou West Street in a hutong (alleyway) just inside the Second Ring Road in central Beijing, the light was dimmed and the TV set flickered to life. A dozen of the blind huddled together, listening attentively.

A man named Wang Weili was narrating the closing ceremony for the blind in the tiny cinema he set up at his own expense.

"London's eight-minute performance was so impressive," said Li Luyao, a blind girl, 18, who lost her vision since birth.

"Thanks to the narration, I felt their down-to-earth attitude and I am now looking forward to the Games in 2012."

(Xinhua News Agency August 25, 2008)

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