Paralympic Games Close
From the Associated Press:
Beijing capped its six-week run as the center of world sports, ushering out the Paralympic Games on Wednesday with a lavish closing ceremony.
The ceremony marked the end of seven intensive years of preparations and $40 billion in spending on venues and infrastructure -- all meant to symbolize China's emergence as a leading nation in the 21st century.
A 91,000 sellout crowd in the Bird's Nest National Stadium saw the ceremonial flame extinguished and the event formally handed over to London, which will host the next Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.
As with the Olympics, officials praised their Chinese hosts for the striking venues, tight organization and stadiums that were mostly filled for 11 days of competition.
The Games were held in nearly perfect weather with blue skies and light traffic, leaving Beijing's chronic air pollution a distant memory.
However, traffic control measures are slated to end Saturday, with 2 million vehicles expected to return to the roads. In addition, heavy industry -- shuttered for two months -- and building construction is expected to return to pre-games levels, along with accompanying pollution.
"These games have been great games," said Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee. "Everybody realizes that. These are the greatest Paralympic Games ever."
China led the gold-medal table in the Olympics and did the same in the Paralympics, winning 89 gold and 211 overall. Britain was No. 2 with 42 gold and 102 overall. The United States was No. 3 with 36 and 99.
South African swimmer Natalie Du Toit, who also competed in the Olympics, won five gold medals. She lost her left leg after a 2001 motorcycle crash.
Compatriot Oscar Pistroius, a double-amputee sprinter who runs on carbon-fiber legs, won three golds in 100, 200 and 400 meters.
Four thousand athletes from 147 regions and countries took part. That number is expected to reach 4,200 in Britain.
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