Paralympics: Rousing end to Rio Games in Brazil

Brazilian athletes take part in the closing ceremony. It is the end of 11 days of sporting action at the Rio Paralympics, yet the raucous cheers of cariocas (the locals of Rio de Janeiro) have not died down.
Brazilian athletes take part in the closing ceremony. It is the end of 11 days of sporting action at the Rio Paralympics, yet the raucous cheers of cariocas (the locals of Rio de Janeiro) have not died down.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO - It is the end of 11 days of sporting action at the Rio Paralympics, yet the raucous cheers of cariocas (the locals of Rio de Janeiro) have not died down.

They cheered, sang and erupted into spontaneous Mexican waves in the legendary Maracana Stadium on Sunday night (Sept 18 in Brazil) to celebrate persons with disabilities.

The performers with various degrees of impairments showed what they could do despite their disabilities. Hearing-impaired musicians beat their drums by following lights on a visual metronome and dancers wearing prosthetic legs performed somersaults with ease.

In his speech, International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven recognised the warmth of the host nation, the first South American country to host the quadrennial Games.

He said: "Your vocal support has been even more beautiful than your stunning city. The noise your created, the passion you shared, the warmth you provided helped Paralympians achieve what some thought impossible."

Brazil has delivered the Olympic and Paralympic Games amidst its political and economic crisis. In May this year, experts even petitioned for the Rio Games to be moved or delayed due to the Zika virus.

 

Carlos Arthur Nuzman, president of the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Rio 2016, said this edition will "forever remain in the history of world sport".

The only sombre moment in the closing ceremony was the mention of Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad, 48, who was killed in a road race crash the day before (Sept 17). It was the first ever death of an athlete during the Games.

Sir Craven led the 78,000-strong crowd in observing a minute's silence in tribute to Bahman.

As per tradition, the mayor of Rio (host city) delivered the Olympic flag to the president of the International Olympic Committee, who then transferred it to the governor of Tokyo, which will stage the 2020 Games.

The Japanese flag was then hoisted next to the Paralympic and the Brazilian flags.

China dominated the medal standings with 107 golds and 239 medals overall. Britain were second with 64 golds followed by Ukraine with 41 golds. Host Brazil fell short of their target of finishing fifth in the overall medal table. They finished eighth with 14 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze, bagging 72 medals in total.

Singapore had sent a record 13-strong team to Brazil, its largest Paralympic contingent. Para-swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh won two golds and a bronze respectively as the Republic finished 46th in the medal table. It was also the first time that a Singaporean had won multiple golds at the same Paralympics.

Yip, Goh and the rest of their team-mates are due to arrive back in Singapore early Wednesday morning. Their SQ67 flight is scheduled to touch down at Changi Airport at 5.35am.