9 September 2012 - The last day of the Paralympics was a wrap-up day, just a few events. But the US went out on a strong note: Wheelchair rugby cruised to a 53-43 win in their final match, bringing home the bronze, and in the women’s marathon (T54), Team USA’s Shirley Reilly won gold.
And then the Closing Ceremonies, which were fabulous fun. Opening Ceremonies are fun, too, of course, but the underlying sense of the moment is serious: the athletes are facing, just days or even hours ahead, the competitions they’ve trained for and dreamed about for years. Teams walk, almost march in together, and they sit together as a team behind their national flags, signaling the commitment to win for their country.
But in Closing Ceremonies, the athletes meander in informally and sit together all mixed up. The national flags also enter together. It gives the evening a wonderful sense of brotherhood, a feeling that after the hard-fought competitions, we’re still friends.
And the Ceremonies themselves are just plain celebratory: A great rock concert featuring Coldplay and Rihanna and Jay Z for the outgoing hosts, London 2012, and showcasing Carlinhos Brown and the Paralamas do Successo for the next hosts, Rio 2016. People dancing on straps in mid-air and on stilts. Mythical beasts and steampunk contraptions and fountains of water and jugglers with flaming batons. And at the end, a spectacular fireworks display arcing over the stadium and out across the city, down the Thames River and lighting up the Paralympics logo hanging from the Tower Bridge.
A few notes: The London Paralympic torch was spectacular to the end.
Constructed of many torches that stood upright together to make one flame, like a flower constructed of many petals, at the end of the ceremony the petals slowly separated, dying out as they opened until only one was still lit. Two British athletes, gold medalists Jonnie Peacock and Eleanor Simmonds, then lit individual torches before the last flames died away on the Torch, and handed the fire over to Rio. It was quite beautiful.
Also, the American team voted to give the honor of being Closing Ceremonies flag bearer to Bradley Snyder, wounded in Afghanistan a year ago and winner of two golds and a silver in swimming. MEDAL QUEST will be bringing you his story soon.
That’s right -- although the London Games are over, MEDAL QUEST will continue. There were so many great competitions, we couldn’t get them all to you during this short 12-day period. So please keep up with us on pbs.org/medalquest and on our Facebook and Twitter pages. We’ll be looking back at London 2012 and ahead to Rio 2016 with more stories and pictures soon.
Judith Vecchione, for MEDAL QUEST