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Published: 3/1/2010

Curtain closes on Winter Games

FROM THE BLADE'S NEWS SERVICES

VANCOUVER - An Olympics that began with the death of a luge competitor ended Sunday with an exuberant celebration of Canada - reflecting a determined comeback by the host country's organizers and athletes.

A crowd of 60,000 jammed into BC Place Stadium for the closing ceremony, many of them Canadians abuzz about the overtime victory by their men's hockey team earlier in the day.

The festivities contrasted sharply with the moment of silence at the opening ceremony Feb. 12 for Georgia's Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21-year-old luger killed in a horrific training-run crash on the sliding track in Whistler just hours before that ceremony.

Right from the start, there was a spirit of redemption as the producers made up for an opening-ceremony glitch in which one leg of the Olympic cauldron failed to rise from the stadium floor.

Sunday the cauldron functioned smoothly and former speedskating medalist Catriona LeMay Doan - who missed out on the opening-night flame lighting because of the glitch - got to perform that duty this time.

"These games started out with a nightmare and ended up with a golden dream," said Kevan Gosper, an IOC member from Australia who was in the stadium crowd last evening.

Canadian officials ensured there would be some poignancy at the closing ceremony, selecting figure skater Joannie Rochette as their flag bearer.

Her mother died of a heart attack hours after arriving in Vancouver last weekend, but Ms. Rochette chose to carry on and won a bronze medal, inspiring her teammates and fans around the world.

"The memory I will take from this is that it was a fantastic games in a beautiful setting put on by a really proud city," Billy Demong said before carrying in the U.S. flag for the closing ceremony.

"Of course, the death [of the Georgian luge racer] will cast a shadow over the Games," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said. "That goes without saying, and this is something we are not going to forget.

"At same time, I think we should be very fair for the organizers and the athletes. [The organizing committee] did a great job. And the athletes had great games.

"What will stand out is the communion between the citizens and games - the way they participated on the streets, the unique atmosphere we have experienced," Mr. Rogge said.

Canada, after a slow start, set a Winter Games record with 14 golds and sparked public enthusiasm in Vancouver that veterans of multiple Olympics described as unsurpassed.

Sidney Crosby, the face of hockey in Canada, scored the goal that won the last gold awarded.

"Pretty fitting that Sid scored it," said Canadian captain Scott Niedermayer.

Such joy at the finish. Such anguish at the start.



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