After 17 wonderful days of top athletic competition, Canada says
congratulations and goodbye to world's top winter athletes during
light-hearted Closing Ceremony of 2010 Olympic Winter Games

Ceremony pokes fun, celebrates three of Canada's greatest exports: talent, innovation and humour with homegrown comedic talents, musical superstars

VANCOUVER, Feb. 28 /CNW/ - Canada bid adieu to the world's best winter athletes tonight, ending 17 days of thrilling athletic achievements and rousing displays of patriotism with a spectacular ceremony full of pomp and circumstance and a tongue-in-cheek homage to Canadiana for the official closing of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Relaxed and joyous in spirit to reflect the celebratory atmosphere of the athletes, the ceremony started with a dramatic countdown by more than one thousand young British Columbians chanting "Vancouver" and slamming down their snowboards like dominoes to form the countdown numbers and the iconic words "strong and free" from O Canada.

The more than 2,600 Olympians who competed at Canada's Games entered the indoor stadium no longer grouped by nation but altogether as "one nation of athletes." They appeared as Nikki Yanofsky, Derek Miller and Eva Avila belted out the upbeat debut of the song Let's Have a Party written expressly for the night.

"Athletes of the world, at your hands and through your determination and tenacity we have felt every imaginable emotion," said John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). "We have lived the agony and the ecstasy with you as if we ourselves were competing. Boys and girls you will never meet now know that it is possible to achieve greatness through the power of a dream.

"I believe we Canadians tonight are stronger, more united, more in love with our country, and more connected with each other than ever before. These Olympic Games have lifted us up. That quiet, humble national pride we were sometimes reluctant to acknowledge seemed to take to the streets as the most beautiful kind of patriotism broke out all across our country.

"And finally to those who have watched us all over the globe we hope you enjoyed these Games and the telling of our humble Canadian story. The young men and women you sent here are coming home -- you can be very proud of them."

During the ceremony, Vancouver 2010 volunteers Ingman Bysse, Julien Capraro, Julia Li, and Bet Tuason were recognized with bouquets of flowers as a tribute to the tireless 18,500 volunteers who have worked hard -- some for years -- to help welcome the world and make Canada's Games a success.

The night also featured the official handover of the Olympic flag by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to Anatoly Pakhomov, mayor of Sochi - Host City of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014 showcasing the best of Russian culture and sport, including Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova as a magical fairy, a live orchestral performance from Red Square led by maestro Valery Gergiev in Vancouver, members of the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets, and opera singer Mariya Gulegina performing atop a stylized troika, or three-horse Russian sleigh, encased in a glowing white "zorb."

"We have shared the joy of dreams fulfilled. We have been moved by tears of elation and tears of disappointment. We have witnessed extraordinary acts of courage and exceptional determination by athletes who refused to give up. Thank you to the people of Canada, for your generous hospitality, your warmth, and this unique and joyous celebration of Olympism," said International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge.

"And now, in accordance with tradition, I declare the XXI Olympic Winter Games closed, and I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in Sochi, to celebrate the XXII Olympic Winter Games."

The most emotional moment of the night came as the tens of thousands of spectators watched as the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron flickered and then was extinguished by falling snow in BC Place as Canadian rock legend Neil Young sang Long May You Run in tribute to the athletes. Olympic fans gathered outside at the legacy cauldron, located along the Vancouver waterfront, as it was simultaneously extinguished around 6:30 pm Pacific Time.

The later part of the evening was devoted to a cheeky audiovisual and musical extravaganza of Canada's three greatest exports: talent, innovation and humour. Three of Canada's most famous actors (didn't know they were Canadian, eh?!) - Star Trek's William Shatner, SCTV alumnus and Hollywood comedic talent Catherine O'Hara, as well as Family Ties and Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox - kicked off the segment. Shatner gave a bravo performance on the glories of the Great White North's landscape called We Dream Big, while O'Hara poked fun at the Canadian reputation for politeness in We're Sorry. In his routine We Will Claim You, Fox warmly declared all the world's athletes Canadian as they prepare to depart for home.

David Atkins, executive producer and artistic director, and Ignatius Jones, artistic director, created and produced the ceremony with a Canadian and international artistic team including director of design Doug Paraschuk, director of music Dave Pierce and director of choreography Jean Grand-Maître.

"We would like to thank that country for giving us the opportunity to work with them, those fabulous, warm, chronically polite and frankly, crazy Canucks. They've battled so hard to create these ceremonies, and laughed and smiled and pushed on when we asked them to do yet another impossible thing," said Atkins, and Jones.

"We'd like to thank our truly magnificent crew, many of whom have travelled from every corner of the globe to work with the Canadian team and who've done an unbelievable job. And of course, we'd like to thank Vancouver, for pulling out all the stops to show the world what it can do. So party hard, Canada, BC, Vancouver and Whistler. Tonight the applause is yours, and you've earned it all."

The fun continued with an elaborate -- and deliberately over-the-top -- musical routine in the style of Hollywood master Busby Berkeley playing off some of Canada's most iconic and lampooned cultural imagery. As crooner Michael Bublé gave a swinging, jazzy rendition of the Canadian standard The Maple Leaf Forever he was joined by singing and dancing performers dressed in the red serge uniforms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), tabletop hockey players, voyageurs, lumberjacks, dancing canoes, flying maple leaves, giant inflatable beavers and moose, as well as a motorized Stetson hat in homage to this staple of the traditional RCMP uniform.

As the athletes flooded back onto the main stage, one of Canada's most famous rock bands - Nickelback - launched into rockin' renditions of their hits How You Remind Me and Burn It to the Ground, followed by songstresses Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morissette, Montreal-based punk-pop outfits Simple Plan and Hedley, and French-Canadian pop-rock idol Marie-Mai and the rollicking kitchen party folk and world beat rhythms of La Bottine Souriante.

Toronto-born award-winning rapper k-os ended the evening on a joyous note with a wicked Eye Know Something as hundreds of hip-hop dancers from XXS (Xtreme Soul Style), NON (Now or Never) and Hip Hop Youth of Vancouver took over the aisles and stage with Scrap Arts Music and Beat Nation Drummers playing along.

About VANOC

VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit www.vancouver2010.com.

SOURCE VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

For further information: For further information: Media Contact: VANOC Communications, Tel: (604) 403-1611, E-mail: mediarelations@vancouver2010.com

Organization Profile

VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

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