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Beijing bids goodbye to the Games

updated: 2008-09-18

People may be forgiven for switching on their TV sets today to catch something on the Paralympic Games. Many are known to have done that the day after the Olympics ended to catch Olympic action.

The disappointment and the sorrow of bidding farewell to two of China's greatest events in recent times will linger for days, if not months. But like every good thing in life they had to come to an end.

The Paralympic Games torch atop the Bird's Nest flickered till the last before vanishing into the Beijing night sky on Wednesday, bringing the curtains down on a sports gala that began with the Olympics on Aug 8.

It seemed the flame could hear the heartbeats of not only the 90,000 people in the stadium, but also billions across the world. It appeared to answer the little girl, who "sang" in sign language: "The flame do you see? You are in my heart. The flame, do you hear? I'm singing to you with my heart."

But the end came after what many said was a befitting closing ceremony program for the Paralympics. What better way to bid farewell to friends from across the world than to evoke the image of China's mother river? The performers, dressed in yellow, created a flow that could only be matched by the surging waters of the Yellow River.

The sounds of bells opened the first part, Red Leaves of Fragrant Hill, followed by A Letter to the Future, which saw small yellow flowers blooming to the slow, rhythmic flow of music.

The program was divided into four parts, during which athletes and officials were showered with small red leaves and yellow petals; the red leaves conveying Beijing's love and respect for the athletes.

More than 4,000 athletes from 147 countries and regions competed in 20 sports for the 472 gold medals, shattering 279 world and 339 Paralympic records.

China topped the medal tally with 89 golds, 70 silvers and 52 bronzes - a total of 211 medals. It was its best show at a Paralympics.

But these are mere statistics, though they speak of the sincerity and backbreaking efforts of the athletes.

The greater message from the Paralympics was something altogether different. If the 17-day Olympics was a proud achievement, the 12-day Paralympics proved to be a humbling experience.

Everyone, including President Hu Jintao, has said it will help us to serve the physically challenged better.

Panama's Said Gomez and South Africa's Natalie Du Toit were given the Whang Youn-dai award.

The award was introduced by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in Seoul 1988 to steel the resolve of physically challenged people to overcome adversities by trying to excel in sports.

Gomez, who lost his eyesight at a young age, is a triple Paralympic gold medallist, and Du Toit, who competed in the Olympics too, claimed golds in all the five Paralympic swimming events she took part.

"The Paralympic spirit that is ever bright in our movement, found here in China, a kindred spirit," IPC President Philip Craven said. "It reached out to you, you embraced it and it is now cherished in your hearts."

All the participants got the opportunity to write their hopes and blessing on postcards, 10,000 of which were distributed at the site.

London took over the Paralympics torch from Beijing Wednesday. London Mayor Boris Johnson took the Paralympic flag from Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong at the end of the closing ceremony. A red double-decker was driven inside the Bird's Nest for the second time in less than four weeks to cheers from the crowd.

Resource: China Daily