Flushed with pride after a spectacular showing at the costliest Olympics ever, Russia celebrated 17 days of sport-driven global unity on Sunday night with a farewell show that hands off the Winter Games to their next host, Pyeongchang in South Korea.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach brought the Sochi Winter Games to a close:
There is no higher compliment than to say on behalf of all participants and on behalf of all of my fellow Olympic athletes – these were the athletes’ Games.
Russia’s first Winter Games ended with the host nation on top of the medals table. Canada was fourth with 25 medals, one shy of the total from four years ago in Vancouver.
Canadian gold medalist bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse will carry the Canadian flag in the athletes’ parade.
Oh Canada! Getting ready to walk out!!! pic.twitter.com/De3uzkfZpN
— Kaillie Humphries (@BobsledKaillie) February 23, 2014
There was much speculation that speedskater Gilmore Junio would get the honour, but the bobsledders’ surprise medal (they were likely to get silver until the U.S. team bumbled their run) was enough to earn them the nod. They were defending the medal from Vancouver.
- See the ceremony from the eyes of Canada’s athletes
— Eric Reguly (@ereguly) February 23, 2014
In a charming touch, the Sochi organizers used the ceremony to make a joke at their own expense. Dancers in shimmering silver costumes formed themselves into four rings and a clump in the centre of the stadium. That was a wink to a technical glitch in the Feb. 7 opening ceremony, when one of the five Olympic rings in a wintry opening scene failed to open. The rings were supposed to join together and erupt in fireworks.
This time, it worked: As Russian President Vladimir Putin watched from the stands, the dancers in the clump waited a few seconds and then formed a ring of their own, making five, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Sochi was Putin’s Games
The 2014 Winter Games came and went without a single iconic name or moment – unless you count Vladimir Putin. As Eric Reguly writes,
The face of the Sochi Games is Russian President Vladimir Putin. These were very much his Games, his way of proving to the world that Russia, a clapped out wreck of a state only a decade ago, could pull off a competent, glitch-free competition.
A nod to South Korea
The event featured a symbolic handover of the Olympic flag to Pyeongchang, South Korea, the host of the 2018 Games.
– With files from The Associated Press and Reuters