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A fitting finale
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By Tabitha Messick

The flame atop the Bird's Nest may be physically extinguished, but it will always remain in the hearts and minds of Chinese people and the entire international community.

To the sold out crowd of over 90,000, Sir Philip Craven, president of International Paralympic Committee (IPC), declared the Games closed but not without first calling them the "greatest Paralympic Games ever."

He closed his speech by thanking, in Chinese, the other host cities -- Xiang Gang (Hong Kong), Qing Dao and finally to Zhong Guo (China). The venue erupted in applause.

Artistry, beauty and grace were components of Wednesday night's Paralympic Closing Ceremony. It also had the creative theme of "A Letter to the Future" with dancers gathering into the shape of an envelope, acrobatic postman "flying" and literal postcards given to every spectator and athlete to send via China Post.

Fang, a 25-year-old Beijinger, brought his girlfriend to the Ceremony for her birthday. "It was a great surprise," he said, "and I'm so glad we came. This is once-in-a-lifetime."

He said his favorite part was the beginning scene when millions of red leaves fell from the "sky" of the Bird's Nest and covered the entire floor.

"It was really amazing to see," Fang said. "It was correct to be called the ‘Red Leaves of Fragrant Hill'."

The only slightly awkward moment during the Ceremony seemed to be London's eight minute performance. The ionic double-decker bus, famous for donning David Beckham during the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games, returned. This time it wasn't red but instead painted with the London 2012 logo.

The London performers presented a diverse cultural performance where dance and young people comprised a central segment. It featured innovative dance performers, both abled and disabled, along with drummer Cheriise Osei and rock guitarist Sam Hegedus, who was dressed as Lord Nelson. Nelson was one of the UK's most celebrated national heroes and also famous for achieving in spite of a range of disabilities.

Overall it was a fabulous performance and handover segment. It symbolized that the London bus now, in a sense, will "journey home" with both the Paralympic and Olympic Flags, along with the hopes and dreams of the world's best athletes.

The ending to the Ceremony was truly perfect. The dancers and performers stayed united on the stadium floor as fireworks lit up the sky and countless Fu Nui Le Le mascots pranced around. It was beautiful organized chaos.

As usual, the costumes and décor were spectacular. From "hair tree crowns" to "bronze statues", the structure and execution was meticulous and extraordinary.

Each of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of both Games has been distinctive and memorable, and all have been extremely impressive.

The Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic Games was stunning and accurately demonstrated how these athletes inspire and excite the world.

"It is about to begin, and it is about to end," said Zhang Jigang, executive artistic director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Paralympic Games.

"This is 'A Letter to the Future'. When I write down these sentences, it is as if I am holding all people's hands..." he said of the Closing Ceremony.

(China.org.cn September 18, 2008)

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