LONDON – The curtain came down on a sensational London Paralympics 2012 last night in a spectacular ceremony of fire, fun and typical British eccentricity.
The show was lit up with an array of stunning effects, Coldplay, Rihanna, Jay-Z and true grit and determination.
At some moments fire swept through the stadium to shock and awe the audience, while at others there were touching scenes which brought a tear to the eye.
The ceremony opened with one such scene, as legless war hero Captain Luke Sinnott hauled himself up a flagpole – to proudly fly the Union Flag.
The courageous 32-year-old lost his limbs in 2010 after volunteering to search an area “saturated” with improvised explosive devices to protect his comrades.
Games heroes Ellie Simmonds, 17, and Jonnie Peacock, 19, helped extinguish the flame to officially end the Games.
As the fire in the cauldron died, the gold medal winning stars kindled two torches and passed it on to scores of performers to signify the “eternal nature of the flame living on in each and every one of us”.
Sir Philip Craven, International Paralympic Committee chairman, declared London 2012 “the greatest Paralympic Games ever”.
Lord Coe added: “Together these past few weeks we have shared some wonderful days haven’t we?
“Days where incredible people have performed feats we hardly thought possible.”
There was a special place in the ceremony for disabled war heroes. Soldier Rory Mackenzie, whose leg was blown off by a roadside bomb in Iraq, praised Paralympians’ “indomitable human spirit”.
He told the crowd: “Tonight we bring you the Festival of the Flame, the symbol of the spirit of the Games, which has burned bright at London 2012.
“Tonight we celebrate that spirit and although we have many differences, there is one quality we all share, one thing all of us have in common: human spirit.
“We have all been touched by the triumphs and drama of the Paralympics, witness to the indomitable human spirit of the athletes.
“We have come together in peace for the Games and through that respect for each other, found hope for the future.”
The Earl of Wessex was driven into the stadium in a custom-built car that began life as a military vehicle used in Afghanistan.
It was driven by Captain Tony Harris, who lost his left leg below the knee when he was caught in a blast in Sangin, Afghanistan in 2009.
Blind autistic singer Lissa Hermans, who also performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year, sang the National Anthem.
And the Paraorchestra accompanied Coldplay on stage as Chris Martin sat cross legged to perform alongside them.
He said: “Being asked to play at the closing celebrations for the Paralympic athletes in London is such a great honour for us.
“It was one of the biggest nights of our lives and we were excited to try to create a performance for the last night of the games that closed London 2012 in style.”
Rihanna said: “Being at the Paralympics is the biggest honour. These athletes are gladiators and are a true inspiration to me.”
The audience roared as Britain’s joint flag-bearers wheelchair racer David Weir and cyclist Sarah Storey, who each won four golds, were joined by athletes from each country.
The ceremony included some stunning effects and over 1,000 performers, including a cast of disabled artists, who had spent weeks learning circus skills for the show.
London mayor Boris Johnson passed the Paralympic Flag to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes.
The stunning send-off ended with a spectacular firework display that flashed over the Olympic Stadium and Park.