September 9 - International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Sir Philip Craven tonight went a step further than his Olympic counterpart Jacques Rogge as he declared London 2012 had hosted "the greatest Paralympic Games ever" at a stunning Closing Ceremony here.
The Ceremony came less than a month after the Olympic Closing Ceremony at the same venue where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President called London 2012 "happy and glorious" but refused to hail them as the greatest Games, which he has never done since taking the role from Juan Antonio Samaranch.
However, Sir Philip had no such reservations as he uttered the words that can have no real opposition following 12 truly spectacular days of Paralympic action.
"The Paralympic Games have truly come home and found their pathway to the future here in London," Sir Philip declared to the 80,000 in attendance.
"The Paralympic Spirit which saw its first sparks of life in Stoke Mandeville some 64 years ago has followed a super-charged and surreal existence over the last 12 days.
"This has made the London 2012 Paralympic Games unique and without doubt, in my mind and those of the athletes the Greatest Paralympic Games Ever."
His words were unsurprisingly greeted by a huge roar at director Kim Gavin's wonderful Ceremony – titled Festival of Flame – that was glued together by multi-award winning British rock band Coldplay (pictured below).
Paying tribute to the United Kingdom as a nation famous for hosting festivals, Coldplay took the audience on a journey through autumn, winter, spring and summer.
It all began with a fitting tribute that honoured servicemen and women, particularly through the work of charity Help for Heroes, as double amputee Captain Luke Sinnott climbed to the top of the flagpole to fly the Union flag to the accompaniment of the National Anthem performed by Lissa Hermans, a blind autistic singer.
During a moving speech by Rory Mackenzie, who lost his leg on a patrol due to a roadside bomb, flags from the competing nations formed a heart shape on the field of play before the shape was burnt into the ground.
It was then, following the presentation of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Awards to Ireland's Michael McKillop and Kenya's Mary Nakhumicha Zakayo, recognition of six new IPC Athletes' Council members and of the 70,000 Games Maker volunteers, that Coldplay were revealed on the central Sundial Stage to lead the celebrations with "Us Against The World" before they went through the four seasons.
Many of Coldplay's greatest hits were played across all four seasons but it was spring that caused a huge eruption from the crowd as a Barbadian pop star Rihanna was revealed on a Steamship truck for the performance of a "Princess of China" as a duet with Coldplay.
Rihanna (pictured above, centre) stayed as the show entered summer to perform "We Found Love" before Coldplay finished the season with a performance of "Viva La Vida", the song which was performed by musicians simultaneously around Britain earlier at 2.00pm as part of Bandstand Marathon – the final event of the London 2012 Festival.
As the display of the four seasons ended, the Paralympic Flag handover took place as it was passed from the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to Sir Philip and finally to Mayor of Rio Eduardo Paes.
It was followed by a colourful segment by Rio 2016 featuring musical performances by Brazilian pop stars and playful dance battles with wheelchair dancers and visually impaired ballerinas.
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe (pictured below, left) and then Sir Philip (pictured below, right) came before the Final Flame section to mark the last night of London 2012.
Thomas Heatherwick's Cauldron opened and as the Flame began to fade as British Paralympic champions Ellie Simmonds and Jonnie Peacock, two of the stars of the Games, arrived to a deafening reception to transfer the final Flame to a London Paralympic Torch.
They then proceeded to light hundreds of torches held by members of the cast as another huge roar came for fourteen-time Grammy award winner Jay-Z.
The American rapper arrived on stage with Rihanna to perform "Run This Town" followed by a reprise of "Paradise" by Coldplay with Jay-Z.
Coldplay made an emotional performance of "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall" while the circular stages released fountains of water to finally extinguish the Paralympic Flame.
The Ceremony ended with a spectacular firework display over the Olympic Stadium as the worldwide broadcast left the Olympic Park to showcase a firework display along the River Thames, a stunning display lighting up the Paralympic Agitos on Tower Bridge and finally a projection on the Houses of Parliament of the words "Thank you London, thank you UK".
"Being asked to play at the closing celebrations for the Paralympic athletes in London is such a great honour for us," said Coldplay's lead vocalist Chris Martin.
"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 will close London 2012 in style.
"We're a London band and we met here.
"It's where we all record, rehearse and live.
"These Games have been a chance to show London off to the rest of the world."
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