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Proud mayor credits Whistler for hosting best Paralympics ever

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He may be a little biased as mayor of Whistler but Ken Melamed knows why the president of the International Paralympic Committee called them the best Games ever.

"The reason why these were the best Paralympics ever was because of Whistler," said the proud mayor.

That's not to take anything away from Vancouver's role, he quickly added, which hosted the sledge hockey and curling events, or from the organizers of the Games.

It's just that the bulk of the events were in Whistler, he explained, and 90 per cent of the medals were awarded here. The majority of the athletes lived in the Whistler Athletes' Village. The International Paralympic Committee was headquartered here.

And the community itself welcomed and embraced these Paralympics with open hearts.

That was evidenced not only in the record turnouts at events, with 230,000 tickets sold of the 250,000 available, but in the crowds that gathered for the nightly medals presentations and ultimately lined the village streets in the driving rain to support the athletes in their parade through town on the way to the closing ceremonies Sunday.

"There's no question also that the community of Whistler did come out of their dens to provide an enthusiastic and welcoming atmosphere," said the mayor.

"Everyone across the community needs to take credit for, and bask in the success that we had (from the whole Games experience)."

One of the municipality's roles also was to raise the profile of the Paralympics.

"And we did that," said the mayor.

The importance of Whistler's role in hosting these Paralympics was in evidence at the closing ceremonies. The mayor was invited on stage to handover the International Paralympic Committee flag to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who then handed it off to IPC President Sir Philip Craven, who passed it off to the Mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, which will host the next Winter Paralympic Games in four years.

Melamed did not hold the flag when it was handed to then Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan after the Torino Games in 2006, though he was on the stage.

"We've always been challenged by these long-established policies from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the IPC which state there is only one host city," said the mayor, as to why these were called the Vancouver 2010 Games.

It was testament to Whistler's role in these Games that the mayor of Whistler was part of the closing ceremony handoff.

"It was such a pleasant surprise and much appreciated by me personally and on behalf of the community," he said.