Mike RowbottomWhat is the world to make of Britain? We have staged an Olympics that has surpassed expectations. We have staged a Paralympics that has done the same.

Two Opening Ceremonies and two Closing Ceremonies have celebrated some of our very particular strengths and concerns: the National Health Service; the Industrial Revolution; The Kinks; freedom of speech; Mr Bean taking the mickey out of Chariots of Fire; the Queen – yes, the Queen – taking the mickey out of herself in a filmed sequence with the latest James Bond, Daniel Craig; the Arctic Monkeys; Help for Heroes. It's an eclectic mix.

In the end, the ceremonies book-ending the two sequences of sporting action this summer have been a celebration of what the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins described as "all things counter, original, spare, strange..."

We are British. We are a bit odd. And we have embraced the Olympic and Paralympic spirit...

And in between the ceremonies, crucially, we have presented sport which has surpassed all expectation.

Sir Philip Craven (pictured below, with flag), President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), went on record at the end of tonight's Paralympic Closing Ceremony as saying that the Games just ended were "the greatest Paralympic Games ever."

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Well yes. How often have you heard officials in such cases acclaim newly completed sporting contests as anything else? "London – we salute you for the second best Paralympics ever, or perhaps, bearing in mind Sydney, the third best..." No. Not going to happen.

But he may well have been right.

Tonight's Paralympic Closing Ceremony – the last squeeze of the Olympic/Paralympic lemon – was prefaced by a bizarre sequence which resembled a children's BBC programme featuring out-of-kilter music by Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd just before he went off the rails, in which a number of figures in grey robes, issuing Telly Tubby-like hoots and sighs, wafted about to no apparent purpose – all of which was witnessed amid a baffled silence by a previously boisterous capacity crowd.

At the end of this strange affair, three thin segments of giant white inflatables were left wafting in the air beyond the main stage. They looked like pieces of onion discarded from a Big Mac – was this perhaps a sequence involving one of the key Games sponsors?

But no. Soon they agitated themselves into the symbol for the Paralympics, and the show properly got underway.

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Suddenly there was a LOT of flame and fire being bandied about – more brands than, well, an Olympic marketing roster. It was, of course, a symbol of the Games. But you had to wonder if the director, Kim Gavin, had a bit of a problem with matches as a child.

There followed a hugely affecting sequence celebrating Help for Heroes, a cause particularly close to the Gavin's heart. In emotional terms, it was like turning over from CBeebies to a Channel 4 documentary.

After a team from Help for Heroes had raised a flagpole, it was climbed, with some effort, by Captain Luke Sinnott (pictured below), who lost most of both legs and the use of his right arm after stepping on an IED while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.

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"Let the love that the Paralympics has kindled in our hearts burn brightly as we come together as one, for the Festival of the Flame," intoned Corporal Rory Mackenzie, who lost a leg to a roadside bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan, with the sonorous depth of a Shakespearean actor.

There followed the announcement of the male and female winners of the Whang Youn Dai awards. The turbulent name of Oscar Pistorius – nominated for his groundbreaking work for the Paralympic cause, but lately troubled by reactions that some might have interpreted as bad sportsmanship – was conspicuously avoided. The men's prize went to Ireland's double Paralympic champion Michael McKillop while Kenya's Mary Nakhumicha Zakayo took the prize for women.

There then followed a Coldplay concert, featuring Rihanna and Jay-Z. It was great. What it had to do with the Paralympics was something you could discuss, but what is beyond discussion is the fact that Coldplay are Londoners, and very good, and Rihanna and Jay-Z are American, and also very good. It was beautifully staged, with all possible interest in terms of light and personnel, and the crowd, with lights flowing through and over them, loved it to bits.

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Eduardo Paes (pictured above, with flag), the Mayor of Brazil, made a great job of waving the Olympic flag from side to side after receiving it from his London counterpart, Boris Johnson, via IPC President Sir Philip.

And, oh, we got all Brazilian as the flag of the nation which will take on the Olympic baton showed a little bit of the music and life force we can look forward to in four years' time.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of London 2012, spoke sparely and effectively as he recalled his meeting on the Tube with a Games Maker, Andrew, who turned out to be a doctor who had attended victims of the 7/7 Tube bombings the day after the announcement that London would host the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

"He said he was the one to do the thanking, and as we did a very British dance over who should thank whom, he suddenly cut through it all," Coe (pictured below, speaking) said, adding: "He told me 'I was on duty on 7/7, that awful day. For me, this is closure. I wasn't sure if I should come or whether I could face it. I'm so glad I did. For I've seen the worst of mankind and now I've seen the best of mankind.'

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"Just a few days later I met a Games Maker at the Paralympics, Emily, who told me what participating in wheelchair basketball means to her. 'It has lifted my limitations,'" she said.

"So Andrew and Emily, I'm going to have the last word. Thank you to you and all the volunteers."

Which was followed by a standing ovation.

"The Paralympics is setting records every day," Coe continued. "Sporting records, records for television audiences. In this country we will never think of sport in the same way – and we will never think of disability in the same way."

True. And after this, we will probably never think of closing ceremonies in the same way either.

Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the past five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now chief feature writer for insidethegames and insideworldparasport.