Tue, Jul 31, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Games end in Rio with fireworks, parade and samba

AP , RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Fireworks lit the sky and samba shook the ground on Sunday night as Rio de Janeiro ended the 15th Pan American Games, whose success could boost Brazil's status as a host of global sporting events.

Athletes from across the hemisphere paraded together as 1,500 samba percussionists rocked Maracana stadium, site of the 1950 World Cup final and a symbol of Brazil's ambitions to join the elite of world-class sports hosts.

Brazilian accordionists then played a duet with Mexican mariachis and the Mexican flag was hoisted in tribute to the 2011 Games, which will be played in Guadalajara, Mexico. Slowly, the Pan American flame was extinguished in a metal globe erected on the field.

Samba dancers concluded the spectacle of the games that Rio de Janeiro hoped would show the world Brazil has the credentials to host the 2014 World Cup -- and maybe even an Olympics.

Despite chilly weather, it was a gala ending to the hemisphere-wide event, which drew some 5,500 athletes from 42 countries, 2,000 delegation members, 3,000 journalists and 15,000 volunteers.

Rio residents bundled up to attend the open-air ceremony, under overcast skies and in 14oC temperatures of South American winter. Many seats were empty at Maracana, where tickets were available for US$80.

US softball player Laura Berg, a three-time Olympian and Pan American Games participant, was chosen to carry the US flag at the closing ceremony.

"It's an honor to be able to carry our flag and lead the team at closing ceremonies," Berg said. "Overall, it has been a good trip here in Brazil."

Brazil's flag was carried by firemen who worked at the crash site of a Brazilian jetliner that killed at least 199 people last week in Sao Paulo.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did not attend the closing to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment of the opening ceremony, when he was loudly booed every time his name was mentioned.

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