By Duncan Mackay in Vancouver
February 28 - The Vancouver Olympics ended in spectacular triumph here tonight with a Closing Ceremony that mixed traditional pomp with self-effacing humour and put the icing on 17 days of unrelenting drama and action.
Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), declared the Games "excellent and very friendly" in a closing speech that also paid tribute to the Georgian luger who was killed in a training accident on the day of the Opening Ceremony.
Rogge said: "We have shared the grief of an Olympic dream cut short.
"The memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili will always be with us."
Millions of Canadians had already begun celebrating long before the closing ceremony began after the host-nation defeated the United States 3-2 in a heart-stopping end to the men's ice hockey competition to capture a record 14th gold medal.
The party atmosphere continued at the closing ceremony at BC Place with the hosts poking fun at themselves in a two-hour extravaganza that was laced with self-effacing humour.
Michael J. Fox and William Shatner mocked their countrymen's penchant for politeness.
Before 60,000 spectators who donned brown moose antler hats and pixelated the stadium with lights, Canada had fun with its ice-hockey loving, wildlife-hugging cliches in a revue of "Canadiana."
It also cashed in on its cool factor with 1,000 snowboarders kicking off the countdown while fireworks blasted inside and outside the stadium in images broadcast to 3.5 billion worldwide.
There were some more sombre moments.
Figure skater Joannie Rochette carried Canada's flag after winning a bronze despite still grieving the sudden death of her mother and the crowd richly applauded the tributes to Kumaritashvili.
Rogge said: "Vancouver had extraordinary embrace, something I have never seen on this scale."
The triumphant ending was in stark contrast to the gloomy mood of just a week ago.
The death of Kamaritashvili before the opening ceremony, a lack of snow in the first week and the failure of the hosts to win a stack of early medals was all forgotten after Canada won 10 golds in the last seven days and the initial pessimism snowballed into one giant party.
John Furlong (pictured), the chief executive of Vancouver 2010, who has been warmly applauded wherever he has appeared spoke movingly of how proud he was with the Games despite the death of Kumaritashvili.
He said: "To the people of Georgia, we are so sad and so sorry for your loss.
"Your unimaginable grief is shared by every Canadian and all those who have gathered here."
But Furlong insisted the Games have still changed Canada.
He said: "These Olympic Games have lifted us up.
"If the Canada that came together on opening night was a little mysterious to some it no longer is.
"Now you know us...eh?"
Furlong raised the roof with a rousing speech that paid tribute to Canada's first gold and to its medal on the last day.
Alexandre Bilodeau gave Canada permission to feel like champions, he said.
"Our last one will be remembered for generations."
Vancouver's Mayor Gregor Robertson, dressed in the Canada ice hockey jersey hours after the men's team won the gold medal, handed the Olympic flag over to Anatoly Pakhomov (pictured), the Mayor of Sochi, organiser of the next Games in 2014.
A live broadcast from Moscow's Red Square and Sochi connected the Olympic hosts, past and future.
Rogge said: "Tonight the organisers of the next Winter Games have given the world a taste of modern Russia, through a spectacular Handover Ceremony.
"Congratulations to Sochi 2014 for their efforts, which contributed to the excellent Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.”
As Vancouver said goodbye to its Games, Canada's own Neil Young paid homage with his song "Long May You Run."
Ironically, the 1976 song talks about not getting bogged down by bad weather - one of the recurring themes in these weather-troubled Games.
"We've been through some things together/With trunks of memories still to come/We found things to do in stormy weather/Long may you run," the veteran rocker sang.
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February 2010: Sochi prepares to take over from Vancouver as next Winter Olympic city