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More than 500 Paralympians took part in the closing ceremony in Whistler. (Getty Images)

The 2010 Winter Paralympics win the title of “best ever” as the flame goes out one last time in Vancouver and Whistler, hosts as well of the Winter Olympics held in February.

As the Winter Paralympics closed Sunday after 10 days, International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven declared the experience as the “the best ever Winter Paralympic Games”.

An intimate ceremony in Whistler Medals Plaza was the setting for the extinguishing of the Paralympic flame and the passing of a lit torch from Canadian children to a group of Russian youths.

“We found something special here in British Columbia, and while the world noticed our patriotic celebration and excitement, we at Vancouver 2010 felt it,” Furlong said. “It is with humility and more than a little regret that we now say good-bye.”

IPC President Philip Craven. (Getty Images)

Furlong spoke earlier than scheduled so he could travel to Georgia for a Tuesday memorial honoring Olympic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, victim of a fatal training crash in Whistler on Feb. 12.

The ceremony featured more than 500 Paralympians from 44 countries marching through Whistler Village to the ceremony.

The 90-minute production, titled With Glowing Hearts, was the last event of Vancouver’s Winter Games period.

Nunavut throat singer Tanya Tagaq set the tone for the pageant as Paralympian Kelly Smith of Vancouver left his wheelchair and was thrown high above the audience before he was safely caught in a traditional Inuit blanket toss.

Saskatoon cross-country skier Colette Bourgonje and Japanese sledge hockey captain Endo Takayuki of Japan received the special Whang Youn Dai achievement gold medals.

Furlong paid tribute to the inspiration of Canadian Paralympians.

“Lauren (Woolstencroft), Brian (McKeever) and Viviane (Forest) – you are Canada’s newest heroes,” he said.

“Every Canadian child now knows who you are, but to every Paralympian from every country, you have shown us that for the human heart there is no worthy adversary.”

The flame is passed to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Paralympics. (Getty Images)

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed joined Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to pass the Paralympic flag to Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov via Craven.

Music from the Tchaikovsky classic Nutcracker suite accompanied images of a sand artist animation and an ice dance by Paralympic swimming champion Olesya Vladykina and Olympic figure skating champion Ilia Kulik.

Speaking at a closing press conference, Craven said the 230,000 tickets sold (out of an inventory of 250,000) was a record for the Winter Paralympics. Of those sold, 30,200 tickets were distributed for $5 each to elementary and high school students.

“It’s been a unique experience in the venues which has been ‘pro-Canada’, ‘Go Canada Go’ but a lot of ‘go – every other country’ too,” Craven said.

Craven said 50,000 viewers a day watched action online via ParalympicSport.TV.

Reflecting on the decade-long job of heading the organization from bid stage to Games-end, Furlong said: “I regret not a second of it, but I say to anybody who wants to take on something like this they have to be ready to realize that it’s never going to go away until it’s over.”

Fireworks over Whistler Village at the close of the Winter Paralympics. (Getty Images)

VANOC winds-up its operations in 2011. Though deputy CEO Dave Cobb is forecasting break-even, he wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a small deficit or small surplus on the $1.76 billion operating budget. He expected most of the IOC’s $22 million summer 2009 rescue pledge would be used. Any surplus would be donated to amateur sport.

It could be months before the books are closed and Cobb cautioned that many variables exist, such as the size of compensation for owners of Whistler Blackcomb and Cypress Mountain.

“There is no way we’re going to be exactly balanced to the penny, we’re either going to be a little bit below or a little bit better,” Cobb said.

“We’re very confident now we will be better.”

With reporting from Bob Mackin in Vancouver.

For general comments or questions, click here
Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.

(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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Ed Hula in Vancouver

Ok, Vancouver is taking a stumble or two as it tries to hit full stride for the remainder of the Games.

But there are also a lot of good things to say about these Winter Olympics, despite the early miscues.

The good of Vancouver starts appropriately with arrival at the Vancouver airport. Even before the Olympics, it was one of the easiest airports in the world to use. Volunteers and staff at desks just past passport control quickly processed accreditations, making Olympic visitors good to go well before hitting baggage claim.

Those airport volunteers – and their colleagues across the Olympic theater — are giving these Games a big boost with their enthusiasm and willingness to help. The volunteer corps is always the backbone of Games-time operations, and in Vancouver they are keeping things running.

Security is unobtrusive. So far it’s been incident-free, except for the anti-Games hooligan attack last weekend.

Volunteers jokingly refer to themselves as "smurfs" due to their bright blue jackets. (Getty Images)

For media, Vancouver organizers have delivered a special treat: freedom from a mag and bag check to enter the Main Media Center. The bag and x-ray are still there, but only employed on a random basis.

At the transport mall underneath the MMC, media pass through the mag and bag so that they are cleared before arriving at the venues.

It’s also hard to emphasize the pleasure that comes from being able to move easily and quickly from one place to another, whether venue or party. Unlike Beijing, where attending anything often required an all-day commitment, here it is possible to attend a competition, a party or two, and still have time to finish the day’s work.

I know these are the Winter Olympics and the Cypress Mountain is crying out for snow, not rain. The mild city weather makes everything and everyone run better.

The climate is good for the people buzz of the Games. Bustling crowds in downtown Vancouver and in Whistler give these Games a festive feel. The popularity of the legacy cauldron on the waterfront has apparently caught VANOC off-guard, with thousands of people streaming to Jack Poole Plaza every day.

The tastes of Vancouver are many and varied and well-priced. This may be the best food city of any recent Olympics, summer or winter.

The men’s hockey tournament is underway, the event of these Games that may turn the heat on high for the kettle of Olympic spirit in Vancouver. A new drama is underway in Vancouver as the Canadian team seeks the gold in the national sport.

But hockey aside, the gold medal won this week by moguls skier Eric Bilodeau is the early sports highlight of the Games, ending Canada’s drought of home Games gold. The fans, we hope, will be twice as noisy when the next Canadian stands atop the podium in the coming days.

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Written by Ed Hula in Vancouver.

For general comments or questions, click here.

Your best source of news about the Olympics is http://www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.

(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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