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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And with all those gold medals around Canadian necks, there was only one thing left for them to do last night in Vancouver.

Unidentified Man: Okay, Canada, let me hear you scream.

(Soundbite of cheers)

MONTAGNE: The closing ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Games was one big indoor party, with 60,000 people, including 2,600 athletes. And before the partying began, there were the standard Olympic rituals, as NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES: The music was already playing when the closing ceremony officially began.

(Soundbite of music)

BERKES: With fireworks indoors and out, the BC Place Arena was all white inside with fake ice and snow. That was one of the challenges for the ceremony's producers. How do you celebrate a Winter Olympics that didn't have much winter, and that started off with a Georgian luge athlete dying violently on the track?

Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong tried to address that.

Mr. JOHN FURLONG (Vancouver Olympic CEO): To the people of Georgia, we are so sad and so sorry for your loss. Your unimaginable grief is shared by every Canadian and all those who have gathered here. And may the legacy of your favorite son, Nodar Kumaritashvili, never be forgotten and serve to inspire youth everywhere to be champions in life.

(Soundbite of cheers)

BERKES: The death of the luger is still under investigation.

Furlong mentioned the weather challenges while thanking the blue-jacketed Olympic workforce, especially those who managed to haul and fly snow to Cypress Mountain, then keep it all from melting, despite warmth and heavy rain.

Mr. FURLONG: You took on a stubborn mountain with all your might. The final result: Blue Jackets: one, Cypress Mountain weather: zero.

(Soundbite of cheers)

BERKES: Weather delayed events at the Whistler ski venues. And there also was trouble with the ice at the speed skating oval. But the snow and ice shows did go on, eventually. Still, organizers may have been holding a collective breath when International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge took to the podium to give his assessment.

Mr. JACQUES ROGGE (President, International Olympic Committee): These were excellent and very friendly games.

(Soundbite of cheers)

BERKES Rogge's predecessor used the phrase best ever when describing the other Winter Games in Canada in Calgary in 1988, but Rogge avoids that phrase.

Mr. ROGGE: And now, in accordance with tradition, I declare the 21st Olympic Winter Games closed.

(Soundbite of cheers)

BERKES: And some in the crowd cried no. But right on schedule, Neil Young came out singing, as fake snow fell, and the Olympic flame died out.

(Soundbite of music)

BERKES: What followed were famous Canadians joking about being Canadian, and a tongue-in-cheek parade of dancing Mounties, gigantic beavers and a human hockey puck.

And then it was all rock and hip hop, with the athletes gathered at the stage, showing off medals and dancing to the music. For them, it was simply time to celebrate.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Vancouver.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. NEIL YOUNG (Singer, Songwriter): (singing) We've been through some...

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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