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Olympics Close in Splendor - 2002-02-25


The 19th Winter Olympics came to a close with a gala ceremony at Rice-Eccles Stadium that featured an eclectic mix of entertainment and congratulations from the International Olympic Committee and games organizers. The ceremony capped off games that will be remembered for superior performances, a figure skating controversy and the friendliness of the host city.

With a huge fireworks display, two huge dinosaur puppets, and music ranging from KISS with ice skaters Kristi Yamaguchi and Katarina Witt to Gloria Estafan to soprano Charlotte Church, the closing ceremonies had something for everyone at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The pop band N' Sync performed the national anthem while native American military veterans raised the U.S. flag. Most of the 2,500 athletes who took part in the games were in the stadium and more than 50,000 fans packed the stadium.

The Rhythm and Blues band Earth, Wind and Fire performed a medley of their hits. Former Olympic gold medallist Dorothy Hamill skated to the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow played by jazz artist Harry Connick, Junior.

U.S. Vice president Dick Cheney was in attendance, as were International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and Salt Lake Organizing Committee head, Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney said the 19th winter games were inspiring for all who took part and all who watched. "For 17 days we have lived that dream," he said. "The world came together, some in person, more by TV. Olympians we cheered all of you, not just our own. We saw in you the universal greatness of the human family. During these games of 2002 in Salt Lake, you have shown us what the world can be and we love it."

IOC President Jacques Rogge said that the games were unforgettable. "People of America, Utah and Salt Lake City, you have given the world superb games. You have reassured us that people from all countries can live peacefully together. Thank you! Thank you."

After the exit of the Olympic flag, the Olympic cauldron was extinguished and a huge ultraviolet light show featuring a passel of glowing "stick men" dancing on the floor of the stadium took over. A winter concert featuring pop artists Christina Aguilera and Bon Jovi then had the crowd dancing in celebration. The next Winter Games are in Turin Italy in 2006.

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