2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games

The biggest winter sporting event ever held in Alaska came to a ceremonial close Sunday at Sullivan Arena when Lt. Gov.

Fran Ulmer declared an end to the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games and the symbolic flame was extinguished.

Two years from now, the flame will burn again in Ireland, host of the 2003 World Summer Games.

The Winter Games brought 2,400 athletes to Anchorage from 69 countries and inspired some 6,000 people to volunteer. Thousands more showed up just to be spectators and cheer on athletes they had never known before. At the end, 1,894 medals were awarded.

"To the people of Alaska, you have created the best winter Games in the history of Special Olympics," Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the founder of the movement, told the audience at the farewell ceremony.

"This week here in beautiful Alaska, we have seen the best in sports, the best in volunteers, the best in families, and the best in sponsors," she said. "You are the best athletes in the world. Congratulations."