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Ceremony closes Olympics marked by tragedy, triumph

Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The closing ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics on Sunday night ended more than two weeks of competition at a record- setting Games.

The ceremony, which included musical acts and took on a comedic tone at the end, was certainly different than the opening ceremony that began these Games in the same building, BC Place, on Feb. 12.

But while the opening ceremony ended with a gaffe, when one of four legs of the cauldron didn't come out of the floor as designed, the closing festivities went off without a hitch. In fact, the crew remedied the situation, as the fourth leg had emerged.

Athletes entered the stadium together, not country by country like in the opening ceremony, celebrating more than two weeks of achievement.

"To the athletes of theses games, we say you have made us proud," said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee. "These were excellent and very friendly games."

The Vancouver Games were marked by triumph and perseverance, but early on were defined by the death of an athlete, luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the country of Georgia, who was killed in a training run hours before the opening ceremony.

Questions about the safety of the Whistler Sliding Center track persisted, but the remaining competitions were contested without another serious incident. The last thing that happened there was the first Olympic bobsled gold medal for an American men's team in 62 years.

Then there was the story of Joannie Rochette, the Canadian figure skater who won a bronze medal despite the sudden death of her mother, Therese, from a heart attack just two days before the women's competition began.

Rochette carried the Canadian flag during the closing ceremony.

Canada faced some criticism over its medal count before the final few days, though ended up with a record amount of gold medals. The gold medal Canada won in men's ice hockey gave them 14 for these Vancouver Games -- the most ever won by a country at the Winter Olympics.

Canada finished third in total medal count with 26, while the United States also set a record with its 37 medals, the most ever won by a single country at the Winter Olympics. The 37th medal was a silver in men's hockey. Bill Demong, who won the United States' first gold medal ever in a nordic combined event, the 10-kilometer large hill, carried the flag for the Americans.

Before the Games were officially closed, the Olympic flag handover was conducted in advance of the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia. Rogge waved the Olympic flag before handing it to Anatoliy Pakhomov, mayor of Sochi.

The Moscow State Chamber Choir performed the Russian national anthem and a series of presentations highlighting Russian culture were given, including ballet dancers and a transcontinental musical performance, in which an orchestra in Russia was conducted from Vancouver. In addition to the orchestra and ballet, Russian athletes Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Plushenko appeared on the floor, along with legendary Russian goaltender Vladislav Tretiak.

Once Rogge declared the Vancouver Games closed, the Olympic flame was extinguished, about 90 minutes in, just as Canadian rock icon Neil Young ended his solo acoustic performance of "Long May You Run."

Whereas the first segment of the closing ceremonies was more formal, the second portion took on a decided comedic tone, with appearances from actors William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox.

Canadian singer Michael Buble then performed, kicking off a Broadway-esque musical presentation, featuring larger-than-life representations of Mounties, hockey players and women dressed as Maple leaves.

The ceremony was ended by a series of performances by Canadian musicians, including Nickelback, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette.

While the next Winter Olympics won't occur until 2014, the next Olympiad will be in 2012 in London.

02/28 23:06:58 ET


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