Protest mars Turin Olympic finale

The colourful closing ceremony of the 20th Winter Olympics was marred on Sunday night when a protestor rushed the platform during the finishing speeches.

The intruder ran onto the stage when the president of the organising committee Valentino Castellani was making his closing remarks.

The man, with the logo of a on-line gambling website on his black T-shirt, grabbed a microphone and screamed in English, “the passion” before being hauled away by security staff.

The lapse cast a shadow over the remainder of the glittering night of partying which celebrated Italian carnival, cinema and circus and ended 17 days of competition on snow and ice.

Castellani continued with his speech before handing over to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge who officially declared the Games closed.

“According to tradition I proclaim the Games closed and I call on the youth of the world to assemble in four years in Vancouver to celebrate the 21st Winter Games,” said Rogge.

The IOC president handed over the Olympic flag to Vancouver’s quadriplegic mayor Sam Sullivan, who used a specially-modified electric wheelchair to unfurl the banner.

In his closing speech, the IOC president hailed the Games and told the city: “Well done and thank you! You have succeeded brillantly in meeting your challenge.

“These Games have been held in the spirit of the Olympic truce with the peace and harmony we all desire.”

And in a veiled reference to the doping controversies that have surrounded the Games, Rogge said: “Athletes, it is to protect you that the International Olympic Committee fights untiringly against doping. I promise that we shall continue to fight for a pure and healthy sport.”

Italian Olympic skiing star Isolde Kostner extinguished the flame which had burned brightly over the city as fireworks lit up the sky and the Olympic stadium.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was greeted by jeers and whistles by the crowd, was joined by former New York major Rudy Giuliani and motorsport legend Mario Andretti.

More than 2 000 dancers, acrobats and clowns, along with Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli and rock singers Ricky Martin and Avril Lavigne brought the curtain down on the Games.

The 35 000 spectators were also invited to participate as they were given angel and devil masks as the athletes sported red noses.

The 2 500 competitors from 80 countries were welcomed back into the Olympic Stadium after the competition.

Among the flag bearers were several Olympic gold medallists including figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko and Han Xiaopeng, China’s first skier to win Olympic gold, Canada’s Cindy Klassen, who won five medals.

The biggest cheer was reserved for the Italian team led in by Armin Zoeggeler who claimed the host nation’s first gold medal of five at these Games with his second successive luge title.

Italian Giorgio di Centa, who won his second gold of the Games in men’s 50km cross-country ski marathon earlier in the day, was presented with his medal by his sister Manuela di Centa—herself a two-time former Olympic cross country champion.

The final medals ceremony of the 2006 Games heard the anthem of the host nation ringing over the Stadio Olympico.

Tribute was also paid to legendary Italian film director Federico Fellini as actors took to the stage in original costumes from the 1971 film The Clowns created by Academy Award winner Danilo Donati. - AFP

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