Triumphant ending for Vancouver Winter Games

Mon Mar 1, 2010 1:41am EST
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By Julian Linden

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The Vancouver Winter Olympics ended in spectacular triumph on Sunday with a dazzling closing ceremony that mixed traditional pomp with self-deprecating humor to put the icing on 17 days of unrelenting drama and action.

The President of the International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge declared the Games "excellent and very friendly" in a closing speech that paid tribute to the Georgian luger who was killed in a training accident before the Games opened on February 12.

"We have shared the grief of an Olympic dream cut short. The memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili will always be with us," Rogge said before declaring the Games closed and inviting the world's athletes to reassemble at Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Millions of Canadians had already begun celebrating long before the ceremony began after the host-nation defeated the United States 3-2 in a nerve-churning men's ice hockey final to claim a record 14th gold medal.

The whole country, it seemed, had stopped to watch the three-hour drama on ice.

Sidney Crosby scored the winner after the Americans had equalized 24 seconds from the end of regular time to force the match into overtime and threaten to spoil Canada's party.

"You dream of that moment a thousand times growing up," Crosby said. "For that to come true is pretty amazing.

The hockey was one of just two medals decided on the last day with Norway's Petter Northug winning the first in the men's 50km cross country ski race at Whistler after the closest ever finish to the lung-bursting event.   Continued...

<p>Fireworks explode over BC Place Stadium at the end of the closing ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 28, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Helgren</p>