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Canadian speedskater Catriona Le May Doan lights the Olympic cauldron during the closing ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics. ((Jae C. Hong/Associated Press))

The Vancouver Olympics may have opened with an uneasy, sombre tone, but they closed in a spirit of celebration — with a tongue-in-cheek nod to everything Canadians are deeply proud to be.

With cheers still ringing from Vancouver to St. John's after Canada's dramatic gold-medal win Sunday afternoon over the U.S. in men's hockey, the evening's Winter Games closing ceremony kicked off in hilarious fashion.

Day 17 on Twitter

"That was an amazing ceremonies. Neil young amazing. MJ Fox so good too. And the party on the floor after with all the athletes was killer." — Mike Janyk, Canadian alpine skier

"That....was....awesome...." — Ivan Babikov, Canadian cross-country skier

"Loved the closing ceremonies. Great way to wrap up an amazing event. Staff volunteers athletes and Vancouver. Well done!! Be proud!!" — Jesse Lumsden, Canadian bobsledder

"Oh wow! Surrounded by the best athletes in Canada! Closing ceremonies. What an amazing 16 days! Thanks Canada." — Samuel Edney, Canadian luger

"Just met Scott Niedermayer and touched his gold medal. No big deal."— Brad Spence, Canadian alpine skier

"Yay team Canada with the most golds ever won (14!!!). So proud to be Canadian" — Jeremy Ten, Canadian figure skater

"happiest city in the world! and even happier to share our joy. #van2010 [thank you Vancouver!]" — Gregor Robertson, Mayor of Vancouver  

"I'd like to shout out Mr. Crosby. Because of you, my favourite city is still standing." — Phanyxx

— Compiled by Jordan Shifman

Mocking the awkward malfunction that delayed the lighting of the indoor cauldron at the opening ceremony, a mime went through the motions of pulling the fourth arm of the massive cauldron from the floor of BC Place.

Former speedskating champion Catriona Le May Doan emerged next, Olympic torch in hand, finally getting a chance to set the mechanical arm ablaze.

It was a fitting nod to the mishaps, misfortune and insecurities that vibrated through a country that found itself, for better or worse, under the world's microscope for 17 long days, as over 2,500 athletes from 82 countries took part in the Games.

After the playing of O Canada, the athletes marched into BC Place, waving their flags and cheering with pride.

P.O.V.:

Olympic closing ceremonies: What did you think of them?

 

Canada's flag was carried by figure skater Joannie Rochette. The 24-year-old from Île-Dupas, Que., captured the hearts of people around the world with her brilliant, resilient, bronze-medal performance in the wake of her mother's sudden death at the start of the Vancouver Games.

Russia, athletes, volunteers saluted

Sporting wool sweaters adorned with moose heads and winter caps with ear flaps, the Canadian athletes — many wearing their gold, silver or bronze medals around their necks — were the last to march in.

Faces that many Canadians might not have recognized when the Games began were now easily identifiable as national heroes.

Alexandre Bilodeau, Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Jasey-Jay Anderson, Ashleigh McIvor, Christine Nesbitt — the list goes on and on.

To a standing ovation, they marched. The winners of 26 Olympic medals. The owners of 14 Olympic golds, a record. The authors of unforgettable stories, some inspiring, some heartbreaking, but all courageous.

After the athletes marched into the stadium, Canadian tenor Ben Heppner sang the Olympic anthem, as Mounties brought down the five-ringed flag.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson handed the flag to International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, who passed it on to Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of Sochi, Russia, host of the 2014 Games.

The Moscow state chamber choir marched in, singing a haunting chorus, followed by dancers and their interpretive performance of Russian history and culture.

The Russian tribute was capped with an appearance from hockey star Alexander Ovechkin, figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, men's silver medallist in 2010, and hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak.

'Replace despair with hope'

John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver organizing committee (VANOC), paid tribute to athletes and volunteers that made the Vancouver Games possible. He spoke of the Olympic spirit as "a force that can replace despair with hope, and ignite the human spirit."

Furlong paid tribute to Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed in a horrific training accident on the first day of the Games.

"To the people of Georgia, we are so sad and so sorry for your loss," Furlong said, as the about 60,000 in attendance at BC Place stood to their feet and clapped. "Your unimaginable grief is shared by every Canadian, and all those that are gathered here."

Rogge officially closed the Vancouver Games before Canadian singing legend Neil Young delighted the crowd with a moving rendition of Long May You Run.

Homegrown entertainers take stage

Canada continued to bring out its star power, with actors William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox following Young with a series of humour-tinged monologues.

"I'm sorry you thought Canada was one great big frozen tundra," said O'Hara, mocking the world's shock that British Columbia isn't always winter wonderland.

Fox celebrated his Canadian roots, saying even though he has lived in the United States for 30 years, if he's watching the two countries play hockey, "I'm sorry, but I'm wearing a maple leaf on my sweater."

Singer Michael Bublé, starting out wearing Mountie gear, sang a patriotic, sardonic tune playing off Canadian clichés — giant inflated beavers, moose, Mounties, table-hockey players and maple leaves circled through BC Place, pulled by lumberjacks.

The satirical act of uber-Canadiana was followed by yet another series of Canadian performers, including Nickelback, Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan.

They were followed by Alanis Morissette, who performed a version of Wunderkind, as athletes hugged each other and waved their flags.

Performances from Hedley, Marie-Mai, and k-os rounded out the closing ceremony, capped with a fireworks display.