Paralympics closes with extravaganza
The stadium rocked to the sounds of Coldplay as London closed the Paralympic Games with a spectacular ceremony.
AND all of a sudden it was all over. The closing ceremony of the London Paralympics brought to an end not only a Games that had been proclaimed as one to change the Paralympic movement forever but also a spectacular sporting festival that began with the Olympic Games six weeks ago.
The London Organising Committee (LOCOG) fulfilled its pledge to not treat the Paralympics as a poor cousin to the Olympics and the athletes themselves put on 11 days of not only enthralling sporting contests but inspiring stories.
There have been many highlights, from the incredible performances of local heroes Ellie Simmonds and David Weir - who won a collection of gold medals under enormous expectations - to the unknown vision-impaired athletes who ran around the track blindfolded and with the add of a guide.
There were also controversies, the biggest when South African legend Oscar Pistorius lost the first 200 metre sprint of his career and went on to question the legality of the blades used by his conqueror Brazilian Alan Oliveira.
There were also blunders such as the confusion, dithering and backflipping that led to the awarding of two sets of medals for the F35/36 discuss after a scoring mistake.
The closing ceremony, titled the festival of flame, was designed to pay tribute to the spirit of the athletes.
"The Paralympic Games has set new records every day, sporting records, records for crowds, for television audiences, for unbridled spirit," said LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe.
"In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way."
Coldplay, Jay Z, Rihanna and five wind gremlins (who began the ceremony by blowing the representation of the Paralympic symbols, the Agitos, out of the stadium) all played their part as did fire, lots of it, from people with flame throwers to dancers holding flares and fireworks erupting title shape of a heart around 164 flag bearers, including Evan O'Hanlon for Australia.
Australia could be proud of its efforts finishing fifth on the medal tally with 32 gold, 23 silver and 30 bronze for a total of 85 medals. And among those were born a crop of sporting talent that the Australian Paralympic Committee hopes it can develop into familiar names alongside the like of Kurt Fearnley and Matt Cowdrey.
In the end, all that was left for International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven to do, was what his International Olympic Committee counterpart Jacques Rogge did not, declare the London Paralympic Games as the "greatest ever".