18 Sep 2008

Paralympics close in Beijing

6:05 am on 18 September 2008

The Paralympics flame was extinguished over the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium after a lavish closing ceremony last night, ending a spectacular summer of sport in Beijing.

Countless red maple leaves symbolising respect for the athletes drifted from the stadium roof in the show to end the 12-day extravaganza, which followed the Olympic Games.

The International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven says these have been the greatesttset paralympics ever.

China dominated the medals table with 89 golds and 211 medals overall, enjoying particular success in athletics, swimming and table tennis.

Britain, which chased China hard in the early part of the Games, finished with 42 golds and 102 medals, ahead of the United States in third place with 36 golds and 99 medals.

New Zealand finished 24th on the table, a similar position to the Olympics last month.

The Paralympic Games were lit up by Canadian wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc, South Africa's Olympic swimmer Natalie du Toit and Australian swimmer Matthew Cowdrey, all of whom won five golds.

The Games have been widely praised for their organisation and the huge crowds that turned out to watch about 4,000 athletes from around 150 countries compete.

China has also sought to use the Paralympics to improve the plight of its 83 million disabled, and President Hu Jintao Wednesday pledged more efforts to promote their well-being.

British organisers of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics have also praised the "spectacular" delivery of both events but promised an outstanding event of their own.