Viewed by millions across the globe on television, the three-hour party at the packed 80,000-seat arena in east London gave the world a chance to celebrate 11 days of Paralympic competition that have shifted perceptions and shattered stereotypes about the disabled forever.
Central to the “Festival of the Flame” closing ceremony were the 4,200 Paralympians from 164 nations who encircled the field of play from the start, waving flags and soaking up the supercharged atmosphere. At the end of the extravaganza, they created an international melting pot in front of the stage as volleys of fireworks rocketed above.
The show opened with a moving tribute to wounded British servicemen and members of the British army. Luke Sinnott, a captain who lost both legs from above the knee in an explosion in Afghanistan, hoisted the Union Flag in the middle of the stadium. Rory Mackenzie, a serviceman who lost his leg on patrol in a roadside bomb blast, introduced the Four Seasons theme that was at the heart of the show.
Flag-bearers from all competing nations marched in before an exuberant carnival-style parade of 25 trucks and motorcycles, shaped like everything from peacocks to fish, that stormed the stadium and kick-started Coldplay’s set.
Rihanna, whose chart-topper “Umbrella” had been featured in the games’ opening ceremony and formed part of its theme, drew wild applause for renditions of her “We Found Love” and “Princess of China” megahits.
“Being at the Paralympics is the biggest honour,” said the Bajan songstress, who first appeared dressed in a flowing orange gown before switching to a transparent black top teamed with dark sunglasses. “These athletes are gladiators and are a true inspiration to me.”
She sang her “We Found Love” hit while swinging in an open chair high above the stage, a riveting stunt that held the audience spellbound and probably scared the spit out of her insurers.
Such was the global attraction of performing at the closing ceremony that organizers were obliged to turn down offers from other major artists who volunteered to contribute their talents.
Rihanna and the rest of Sunday night’s stars, artists who have sold millions of records, were happy to be paid a nominal £1 (US$1.60) to play.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin belted out top-selling hits like “Clocks,” ”Viva La Vida” and “Paradise”. “Nobody said it was easy,” a lyric from the moving song “The Scientist,” seemed particularly apt for the occasion.
Coldplay, who were given a standing ovation when they performed their final song “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” said: “We can’t actually imagine a bigger honour” than playing at the Paralympics in their home city.
Jay-Z, who brought the house down with “Run This Town,” was similarly moved by the experience.
Artistic director Kim Gavin created an electric production. White confetti rained down as snow, black crows on stilts encircled the stage, flaming butterflies swirled in the air and a flying motorbike driven by highwire artist Laszlo Simet with disabled dancer Lyndsay Adams powered across the stadium.
The ceremony climaxed with the extinguishing of the cauldron, ending the games in London and passing the baton to Rio de Janeiro for 2016. The handover saw Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes wave the Paralympic flag before Brazilian pop stars danced onto the stage.
Speaker after speaker acknowledged that after London, the Paralympics will never be the same.
“On Aug. 29, we opened with the theme of ‘Enlightenment,’” said Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee. “Tonight, we are enlightened and armed with a superior knowledge of what can be achieved. The legacy of these games will be long-lasting.”
Caribbean 360 News