There may have been uncertainty and controversy before the start of the Paralympic Games, due to the Games cost, ticket sales and Russian’s ban, but it was all forgotten as the city of Rio provided a spectacular celebration for all before the Paralympic flame was extinguished. Partying is synonymous with Rio, which hosts the biggest carnival in the world annually, and the city did not disappoint – despite the smattering of rain, which did nothing to dampen the electric atmosphere in the stadium.
Fireworks, Brazilian pop music and samba all featured, as well as a trio of Brazilian guitarists that included Jonathan Bastos, who, born with no arms, learnt to play the guitar with his feet. Rio’s colourful mascots danced jubilantly especially Tom the leafy-headed plant-like creature who represented the explosion of joy Rio felt when it was selected to host.
Triple medallist Liam Malone was the flag bearer for New Zealand, who achieved incredible results at this year’s Paralympic Games, surpassing a target of 18 medals to achieve 21 – nine gold, five silver and seven bronze – staying strong as the number one country for medals per capita. In fact, swimmer Sophie Pascoe was the 10th most successful Paralympian of the games, among 4350 competitors, thanks to her five medals at Rio.
China was top of the table with a haul of 239 medals, followed by Great Britain with 147 and Ukraine with 117.
On a sombre note, Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad was honoured during the ceremony. The cyclist died in hospital after a horrific crash on the mountainous Grumari loop in the C4-5 road race on Saturday. Flags were lowered half-mast throughout the Paralympic village and also as Iran took the gold from Bosnia-Herzegovina for sitting volleyball, which was one of the final events of the games on Sunday. Athletes dedicated their win to Golbarnezhad.
The party continued as the flag was officially handed over to Tokyo for the 2020 Games as Japan gave the stadium a taste of what was to come, with performers, wheelchair dancers and Japan’s first amputee model taking the stage as images of the city were projected up behind them.
The ceremony was a fabulously fitting tribute to the inspiration display of world-class athleticism from the Paralympians – celebrated, as they say, in “jeitinho brasileiro”, aka the Brazilian way.
Take a look at some of our favourite moments from the closing ceremony below.