The closing ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics proved to be a glorious celebration and a fitting end to what has been a magnificent Games.

The Chinese started with spectacular fireworks and ended with just as dazzling a pyrotechnic display to give London plenty of food for thought as they plan for their showpiece events in four years' time.

Like the opening ceremony, organisers opted to give athletes the best chance to experience the 90-minute show so only the flag bearers from each nation came into the Bird's Nest stadium, with the other athletes already in place.

Swimmer Dave Roberts, who won four gold medals at the nearby Water Cube, proudly carried the Great Britain flag, but we must give a mention to his fellow swimmer Melissa Stockwell, who did the honours for the USA.

Stockwell is a former American soldier who lost the lower part of her leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

She was awarded the Purple Heart (a top US military award) for her courage, and although Stockwell - whose prosthetic leg is painted in the stars and stripes - did not win any medals, her brave performances saw her representing her country at the closing ceremony.

The music and dance segments struck the right balance with some breathtaking movement and scenery.


It began with thousands of red petals falling from high in the stadium - to symbolise the Red Leaves of Fragrant Hill, a famous scenic spot in Beijing.

The leaves danced on the wind before making their way down to earth where, waiting for them, were what the show's producers described as "colour painters full of romantic Oriental charm" dressed in yellow.

The theme of letter writing ran through much of the ceremony, including the extinguishing of the Paralympic flame, which was far more low-key than the opening ceremony, where Hou Bin dragged himself up the stadium.

After the speeches, it was the turn of London mayor Boris Johnson (with suit open this time) to accept the Paralympic flag, which Boris (with hands out of his pockets) waved with gusto.

However, there were mixed views about the eight-minute London segment which once again starred the London bus, first seen at last month's Olympic closing ceremony.

Whereas last time there was David Beckham, Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page, the producers and creative directors deliberately shied away from global faces to try to make it youthful and full of zest.

It is hard to know what impression the Chinese and the rest of the world will have of London from a bus, some hedging, female drummer Cherisse Osei, guitarist Sam Hegedus dressed as Lord Nelson and some vibrant dancing.

I know it is hard to get everything into such a short slot and you are playing to a television audience, but from our viewpoint in the stadium it was, at times, hard to figure out exactly what was going on.

Did they try to be too wacky? Perhaps, but it ended up looking slightly embarrassing.

"It was quirky and fun," Tanni Grey Thompson told me afterwards. "I loved the bus and the fact that it included the Paralympic logo provided a great showcase and will hopefully help people think about the Paralympics."

And so the Games are over for another four years - and the Chinese can be proud of what they have achieved.

But, as the final fireworks shook the stadium and the athletes streamed away from the Bird's Nest and started dreaming of home, for London, the hard work is only beginning.

Elizabeth Hudson is a BBC Sport journalist focusing on Paralympic sport. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 8:43pm on 17 Sep 2008, clearGwotz wrote:

    I have been so impressed with the Paralympics. Can I say it was even nearly as good as the real Olympics?

    Well, firstly, the commentary (from Claire Balding, Steve Cram, Tanni Grey Thomson) was far superior than the real team (except Michael Johnson).

    The host was so amazingly gracious and I have never see the Paralympics so big and well attended.

    Both opening and closing ceremonies brought a tear to my eye. Especially when the Paralympics president being visibly moved by the lavishness and generosity of the Games.

    No one can deny that the Games has been good for China. We were all too worried about what China wanted to project to the world via the Games. In the end, it was really a therapeutic measure for China.

    For a country accounting for one fifth of the world's population, if this was the least significant achievement, it will be more than enough. The Paralympics will never be the same again....

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  • 2. At 9:16pm on 17 Sep 2008, Salty_Sam wrote:

    First of all, well done to all our paralympians for putting on such a splendid performance and for putting us second in the medals table in Beijing. You have made us all proud.

    I have just been watching the closing ceremony on TV with my Chinese-born wife and want to pass on the comments that she made during the UK’s contribution to the closing ceremony.

    “I love this country (the UK)”, she said “but I am ashamed of what it has become. Is this the best we can do? Is this Britain? If it is, it is not my Britain. This is not the country I know and love. Where do they get these people from? They do not represent me or any of the British people I know. They are tramps. It’s disgusting. Just disgusting. How can I look my Chinese friends in the eye with any pride? That’s just it – there is no pride. Britain has become a nation that prides itself on having no pride.”

    That’s just a sample of her comments. Of course, she can say it openly because she is not “white”. White Britons have to shut up and go along with this pretence that we are comfortable in our dumbed-down, culture-less, third-world squalor; that we are somehow cosmopolitan, trendy and wacky.

    We are not wacky, we are insane. We are insane to have let these patronising, white, middleclass, know-nothings take over the asylum.

    And Boris the Buffoon was not at all out place. He perfectly epitomised what the country has become.

    We have a lot of work to do in next four years if we are to avoid being terminally embarrassed in front of the rest of the world.

    God help us all!

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  • 3. At 10:48pm on 17 Sep 2008, greathappyharmony wrote:

    I was deeply embarrassed at the 8 minute British hand over Mess at the closing of the amazing and inspiring paralympics.
    The section was NOT representative at all. It was some strange concept of a London street which made no sense to the on-looker either from an aesthetic point of view or a cultural one.
    I have never seen anything so dreadful.
    The Logo looked dysfunctional as did the impression of England. Very poor indeed.

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  • 4. At 10:22am on 19 Sep 2008, DrCajetanCoelho wrote:

    Congratulations to all our distinguished participants, medal winners and organizers of the Beijing Paralympics. Let us look forward to seeing them back for the next Oly Games in London.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

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