Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games close in celebration of possibility
The theme of the Opening Ceremony was "Reaching the Impossible."
Three-time U.S. Paralympian Steve Cash was the U.S. flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony.
The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, which were record-breaking in terms of athletic performances, ticket sales and media coverage, came to an end tonight at Fisht Stadium in Russia with a spectacular Closing Ceremony.
Through the theme of "Reaching the Impossible," the Closing Ceremony illuminated how dreams can be achieved through strength and passion to change the perception of "impossible" to "I'm possible."
"The Paralympic Spirit has united and infected us all. Proud Paralympians - your inspirational athletic performances have redefined the boundaries of possibility," International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven said as he addressed the stadium during the Closing Ceremony.
"You have shown the world that absolutely anything is possible and that life is about amazing capabilities and not perceived deficiencies.
"With record numbers of highly enthusiastic spectators supporting you all, you have shown what real grit and determination looks like. Through record TV audiences and media coverage, you have opened up the eyes of the world to what the human spirit can achieve."
The Closing Ceremony started with a group of wheelchair dancers moving gracefully across the field of play, joined by luminous aerialists overhead. All 30 Sochi 2014 gold medalists from the host nation carried the Russian flag into the stadium as the Russian State Children's Chorus Assembly sang an a Capella version of the national anthem.
Sled hockey player Steve Cash, a 2014 and 2010 Paralympic gold medalist as well as a 2006 Paralympic bronze medalist, acted as the U.S. flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony.
Abstract artwork was brought to life by a center stage cast of 462 performers dressed in bright colors who formed geometric shapes to display different images, including illustrations of various winter sports.
A man in a wheelchair then appeared on the scene, faced with the challenge of climbing a 15-mete rope. When he accepted the challenge and reached the top of the rope, he became a flying apostrophe between the letters `I' and `M' in `IMPOSSIBLE' to create `I'M POSSIBLE,' with a spectacular fireworks display celebration the transformation.
The Sochi 2014 Paralympics certainly showcased that motto, as Russia topped the standings with 30 golds and 80 total medals at the Games.
Russia's Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Kozak spoke, saying: "These Games have gone far beyond sports competitions. They showed what people from different countries and nationalities different cultures and traditions are capable of when they are united by a single goal and an inspired dream.
"Attitudes toward people with an impairment have changed among Russian society. The Paralympic Winter Games have become a catalyst for our efforts to create a barrier-free environment in Russia. The Games are over, but we promise that this important work will continue throughout our vast country."
Also in the Ceremony, the Whang Young Dai Award was presented to Australian alpine skier Toby Kane and Dutch snowboarder Bibian Mentel-Spee for not only achieving sporting excellence, but also for exemplifying the spirit of the Games by inspiring and exciting the world.
Norway's Eskil Hagen, Finland's Katja Saarinen and Russia's Mikhail Terentiev were introduced as the new members of the IPC Athletes' Council before the 8,000 Sochi 2014 Paralympic volunteers were recognised as heros of the Games. Soon after, a cast of performers in red, blue and green transformed the Paralympic Agitos into a giant heart, embracing 51 volunteers at its centre.
Visually impaired pianist Oleg Akkuratov played the Paralympic Anthem as the Paralympic Flag was lowered and passed on to the Mayor of PyeongChang before the South Korean flag was raised and the PyeongChang 2018 Games performers gave a magical performance.
An enchanting cast filled the stage for the Closing Ceremony finale, putting on a huge dance sequence that included four international voices - Jose Carreras, Nafset Chenib, Diana Gurtskaya and Valeriy Kozlovsky - and ended with a large fireworks display across the entire Olympic Park.
Team USA ended the Games in third place in the medal standing with 18 overall medals, including golds in sled hockey and the inaugural men's snowboard cross competition, in which Evan Strong led an American sweep of the podium.