Winter Olympics finish in the black

The only red Canadians may end up remembering from the 2010 Winter Olympic and Parlaympic Games is the wave of red mittens in the stands.

WHISTLER, B.C. — The only red Canadians may end up remembering from the 2010 Winter Olympic and Parlaympic Games is the wave of red mittens in the stands.

While it will be months before the final numbers are known, the organizing committee said Sunday they believe at minimum their $1.75 billion budget will balance.

“I think we will have a surplus, just by the fact that there’s no way we are going to be exactly balanced to the penny,” said Dave Cobb, deputy chief executive officer of the organizing committee, known as VANOC.

“We’re either going to be a little bit below or a little bit better and we’re very confident now we will be better.”

Cobb said balancing the budget will still require the extraordinary payment from the International Olympic Committee, who agreed to contribute to VANOC’s coffers after they were unable to sign up all of the hoped for international sponsors for the Games.

But Cobb said he thinks the IOC will view it as money well spent.

“The IOC is extremely pleased with how the Games went,” he said.

So is the International Paralympic Committee.

“Canada has been a great host,” said Sir Philip Craven, president of the IPC at the closing news conference on Sunday.

“And the friendship of the people has come through on the street and also from the unique experience in the venues.”

When the Paralympic flame goes out on Sunday night it won’t just mark the end of that sporting festival, but the end for Canada’s Games.

It’s been seven years since Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. won the bid to host both events and the head of the committee said every minute was worth it for him.

“I’m happy,” said John Furlong, VANOC’s chief executive officer.

“I’m very happy that we’re at the finish line and we’ve managed to get the project to the finish line and I’m very much looking forward tonight to see the ceremonies begin and the Games wind down and to know that the era has been a good success.”

Sunday’s closing ceremonies were to reflect the conclusion of both events.

“We’re not going to ignore the fact that this is the final send off,” said Patrick Roberge, producer of Sunday night’s event.

“It’s very important with the fireworks show and the theme of the show ’with glowing hearts’ — we’ll all have glowing hearts with the success of the Olympics and Paralympics.”

The ceremonies in Whistler, B.C. were scheduled to include performer Chantal Kreviazuk, a torch parade down the mountain and an athletes parade through the village.

Canadian cross-country skiier Colette Bourgonje said the Games proved the power of sport.

“They’ve drawn our nation together and it’s increased the quality of life for disabled athletes,” she told reporters.

“The legacy of these Games will be phenomenal.”

More than 25,000 volunteers, 16,000 security officers, over 7,000 athletes and officials and hundreds of thousands of spectators were part of these two Games.

Billions more were watching on television across the country and around the world.

There was also some success for those who didn’t cheer for the Games but against them.

Hundreds took to the street in protest of the Olympics and a tent city set up to draw attention to homelessness saw government officials actually find homes for 35 people.

Even Mother Nature was won over in the end, even if it took helicopters to dump snow on a barren Cypress Mountain and a constant rejigging of the Paralympic alpine schedule.

“I think I’ll be the first guy to run both Summer and Winter Games, all in two months,” joked Tim Gayda, vice president of sport for the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee.

The fever that inflamed a nation during the 17 days of the Olympics cooled during the Paralympic Games, but both have been embraced by Canada in a way beyond anyone’s expectations.

For some Paralympians, having to wriggle out of the bear hug was the hardest part of their experience.

Canada’s failure to win a medal in sledge hockey was crushing, said defenceman said Adam Dixon.

“We wanted to at least walk out with our pride and walk out with a souvenir to go home with.”

But Canadians weren’t too picky about who they were cheering.

Around 230,000 tickets of the 250,000 available were sold for the Paralympics, with several events sold out even before the Games began.

The Paralympics also set records for television coverage.

Canadian alpine skiier Lauren Woolstencroft set a new record, winning five gold medals at the Paralympics, the most ever won by an athlete at a single Winter Paralympic Games.

Early Sunday morning, the last day of the Games, at the place where thousands of people had once stood crushed against a chainlink fence to see the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron, there were only four scattered coffee cups and three police officers watching clouds race over the north shore mountains.

As a bus driver boarded his bus for Whistler, he waved out to a volunteer.

“If I don’t see ya, have a good one” he drawled.

“It’s been fun.”

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