February 27, 2006
Fun farewell to Turin
As our athletes bask in the glory of their best Games yet, Canada says a joyful goodbye to Italy and welcomes the world to Vancouver in 2010.
KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

TURIN, Italy -- The Olympic flag is in Canada's hands.

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan gleefully twirled the 16-foot flag last night in his wheelchair.

The 46-year-old, who suffered a ski accident at 19, had a special device fitted to his chair so he could wave the flag at the closing ceremony, marking the end of the 20th Winter Olympiad and the beginning of Vancouver's reign as next host.

"I sure felt very nervous about it," said Sullivan, who had been practising the flag wave in a parking lot here. "When it came to the point of doing it, I thought of all of the people who worked so hard to make this happen and I gained confidence.

"I was proud to be a Canadian and I'm really looking forward to the next four years, when we get to tell the story of Canada."

Accepting the flag was part of the ceremony within the ceremony and included a 10-minute preview of what's to come in Vancouver in 2010.

Napanee's Avril Lavigne entertained, while children used white blocks to make the symbol of the 2010 Games -- the Inukshuk, the traditional Inuit figure used as a point of reference on the snowy landscape.

Shane Pearsall, Canada's chef de mission, said he hopes Canadians will be inspired by the success of their athletes, who won 24 medals, and excited by the prospect of the Vancouver Games.

"As taxpayers, we've put a lot of money into this," Pearsall said, referring to the $20 million budgeted for 2006 and 2010 for athletes and programs. "We hope it unites the nation that sport is a good thing."

Turin said "ciao" at the closing with a Carnevale Italiano at Stadio Olympico, an appropriate way to end the Olympics and get ready for the start of Lent on Wednesday in this predominantly Roman Catholic country. It was a sigh of relief as much as goodbye.

"We've done it," Turin organizing committee president Valentino Castellani told his people. "It's been a great celebration of sports."

Like the Games themselves, the closing ceremony kept the focus on the athletes.

The top three finishers in the men's 50-kilometre cross-country race yesterday had their medals presented at the ceremony. By wonderful coincidence, Italy's Giorgio de Centa received his gold medal in front of 35,000 boisterous and happy fans at the stadium.

From cheesy songs such as That's Amore to Ricky Martin pop tunes, performed by the Latin star himself, there was much to keep the energy of the closing ceremony flowing.

The city's mayor, Sergio Chiamparino, called the Games "a beautiful thing."

Vancouver 2010 organizing board chairperson Jack Poole said they learned much from Turin.