Paralympics: Liam Malone carries NZ flag into closing ceremony

Gold and silver medallist Liam Malone carries the New Zealand flag during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Maracana Stadium. photo / Getty
Gold and silver medallist Liam Malone carries the New Zealand flag during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Maracana Stadium. photo / Getty

Rio de Janeiro has said goodbye to the first Paralympics held in South America in a blaze of fireworks and Samba.

The closing ceremony of what will be remembered as the people's Games kicked off at Rio's famed Maracana stadium this morning.

Kiwi triple-medallist Liam Malone carried the New Zealand flag into the stadium. The New Zealand team beat their pre-Games medal target of 18 by three medals, winning a total of 21 (9 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze). The only time New Zealand has ever won more medals was the 25 medals secured back in 1984 (8 gold).

New Zealand-born war veteran Curtis McGrath carried the flag for a contingent of Aussies dressed in striped shirts that made them look suspiciously like convicts.

A giant conga-line of athletes snaked around the stadium to the cheers of thousands of fans who danced in the stands to Brazilian funk music.

After being booed in his brief appearance at the opening ceremony, Brazil's interim President Michel Temer didn't attend.

And Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike took the Paralympic flag in a symbolic handover to the next host city.

A minute's silence was observed to mark the death of an Iranian para-cyclist in the men's road race - the first tragedy of its kind in Paralympic Games history.

It overshadowed a Paralympics that dealt with both a funding and doping crisis to be a success, saving the Games experience for the Brazilian public after the scandal-marred Olympics.

Four weeks ago ticket sales stood at 12 per cent, but a late surge made Rio the second best attended Games in history, behind London with 2.1 million tickets sold.

Affordable prices for a recession-battered country and the #FillTheSeats campaign to buy tickets for local disadvantaged children that even Prince Harry got behind has made Rio a Paralympics for the people.

Organisers shrugged off a doping controversy that left Russia banned from competition on the eve of the Games, and last minute private sponsors also ensured the cash strapped event could go ahead.

There were thrilling victories, records, tears - and controversy.

Powerhouse China won the most gold medals by a mile, while Britain beat Ukraine into second on the medal table.

Belgian wheelchair racer Marieke Vervoort made waves after publicly contemplating euthanasia because of a painful and degenerative muscle disease.

And Middle Eastern politics spilled onto the goalball court as the Algerian women's team forfeited two games as a suspected boycott against Israel.

Four 1500m runners finished faster than last month's Rio Olympic gold medallist.

Brazil's Daniel Dias claimed an historic 24th medal in the pool, sending locals into a frenzy which capped the Games and acted as an antidote to the domestic political, corruption and economic scandals that afflicted the build up.

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