"I said I'm getting dressed up in every single red thing I own ... and coming here ... What I've been seeing in this city is something I've been wanting my whole life, and it's for us to come together. It's beautiful."

For many Canadians, the gold medal ice hockey final, which saw Canada beat the US 3-2, was the only event that really mattered in 16 days of Olympic festivities.

But the celebrations continued at the closing ceremony for the Games, which saw Canada poke fun at itself in a revue of "Canadiana".

Funny man

Sixty-thousand spectators wearing moose antlers were herded into the stadium, while Canada's dignified Mounties were made to dance.

Home-grown celebrities such as actors Michael J Fox and William Shatner spoke of a pride in a people who "know how to make love in a canoe" and apologise for winning gold medals.

Organisers even joked about the apparent glitch at the opening ceremony, when only three of the four arms of the Olympic cauldron emerged from the stadium floor.

To kick off the closing ceremony, a spark fizzled out from the hole in the ground where the fourth arm should have emerged.

Canada poked good-natured fun at itself
and its moose-hugging image [AFP]

A mime dressed in overalls emerged, scratched his head, made as if to connect a huge plug into an electrical socket and pretended to pull the arm out of the trap door.

Canada also cashed in on its cool factor with 1,000 snowboarders kicking off the countdown while fireworks blasted inside and outside the stadium in images broadcast to 3.5 billion worldwide.

Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee president, declared he Vancouver Winter Games officially closed, describing them as "excellent and very friendly".

He also hit a sombre note, paying tribute to Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who was killed in a horrifying training crash on the morning of the opening ceremony on February 12.

"We have shared the grief of an Olympic dream cut short," Rogge said. "The memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili will always be with us."

'Sorry for your loss'

John Furlong, the chief executive of the Vancouver Organising Committee, also paid tribute.

"To the people of Georgia, we are so sad and so sorry for your loss. Your unimaginable grief is shared by every Canadian and all those who have gathered here," he said.

A live broadcast from Moscow's Red Square and Sochi connected Canada with the next Winter Olympic hosts.

As Vancouver said goodbye to its games, Neil Young, the veteran Canadian rocker, paid homage with his song Long May You Run.

Ironically, the 1976 song talks about not getting bogged down by bad weather - one of the recurring themes of Canada's weather-troubled Games.