Games close on sombre note

2004-09-28 22:39
Athens - Six weeks of sporting celebration ended on a sombre note on Tuesday as the closing ceremony of the Paralympics was cut back because of a tragic school-bus crash.

Seven teenagers died in northern Greece on Monday and 30 other passengers were injured when a bus taking students to watch the Paralympics crashed into an oncoming truck.

"Tonight should have been a night for only celebration," said International Paralympic Committee head Phil Craven.

"Millions of people around the world have experienced 11 days of exceptional Paralympic sport."

Chief Athens organiser Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki did not give a speech.

A minute of silence was observed for the crash victims, while the Greek and Paralympic flags were at half-staff.

Schools will remain closed around Greece on Wednesday in a national day of mourning.

Athens organisers also cancelled the festive segment of the ceremony, including a firework display, the release of balloons and a 30-minute concert.

Tuesday's ceremony ended sporting events and other festivities at Athens' main Olympic stadium. The Paralympics began on August 13 with a lavish opening ceremony.

Spectators clapped in unison as athletes - many in wheelchairs - filed into the stadium.

Chinese athletes held up a red banner that read "See you in Beijing 2008."

The one-hour ceremony was trimmed down to the formalities.

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