18 Sep 2008

Paralympics end spectacular summer in Beijing

8:08 am on 18 September 2008

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

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

International Paralympic committee president Philip Craven officially closed the Games.

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.

The Paralympics 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.

New Zealand finished 24th on the table with 12 medals, a similar position to the Olympics in August.

The 22-strong team won five gold, three silver and four bronze. Christchurch swimmer Sophie Pascoe, 15, won four medals alone, including three golds. Cyclist Paula Tesorieoro won three medals - a gold and two bronzes.

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.