February 24

IOC: Russia delivered all that was promised

The Sochi games conclude with a grand closing ceremony and Russia atop the medals table.

By John Leicester
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Performers recreate the ring that did not open during the opening ceremony during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday in Sochi, Russia.

The Associated Press

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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, left, hands the Olympic flag to Lee Seok-rai, mayor of Pyeongchang, during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday in Sochi, Russia.

The Associated Press

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This time, it worked: As 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.

Raucous spectators chanted “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!” – “Russia! Russia!” They got their own Olympic keepsakes – medals of plastic with embedded lights that flashed in unison, creating pulsating waves of color across the stadium.

Athletes said goodbye to rivals-turned-friends from far off places, savoring their achievements or lamenting what might have been – and, for some, looking ahead to 2018. The city where they will compete, Pyeongchang, offered in its segment of the show a teaser of what to expect in four years with video of venues, Korean music and delightful dancers in glowing bird suits.

Winners of Russia’s record 13 gold medals marched into the stadium carrying the country’s white, blue and red flag. With a 3-0 victory over Sweden in the men’s hockey final Sunday, Canada claimed the last gold from the 98 medal events.

Absent were six competitors caught by what was the most extensive anti-doping program in Winter Olympic history, with the IOC conducting a record 2,631 tests – nearly 200 more than originally planned.

Russia’s leader had reason to be pleased as the Olympics dubbed the “Putin Games” ended. His nation’s athletes topped the Sochi medals table, both in golds and total – 33. That represented a stunning turnaround from the 2010 Vancouver Games. There, a meager three golds and 15 total for Russia seemed proof of its gradual decline as a winter sports power since Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Russia’s bag of Sochi gold was the biggest-ever haul by a non-Soviet team.

Russia’s last gold came Sunday in four-man bobsled. The games’ signature moment for home fans was Adelina Sotnikova, cool as ice at 17, becoming Russia’s first gold medalist in women’s Olympic figure skating.

Not every headline out of Sochi was about sport. Going in, organizers faced criticism about Russia’s strict policies toward gays, though once they started sliding and skiing and skating, most every athlete chose not to use the Olympic spotlight to campaign for the cause. An activist musical group and movement, Pussy Riot, appeared in public and was horsewhipped by Cossack militiamen, drawing international scrutiny.

And during the last days of competition, Sochi competed for attention with violence in Ukraine, Russia’s neighbor and considered a vital sphere of influence by the Kremlin.

In an Associated Press interview on Saturday, Bach singled out Ukraine’s victory in women’s biathlon relay as “really an emotional moment” of the games, praising Ukrainian athletes for staying to compete despite the scores dead in protests back home.

“Mourning on the one hand, but knowing what really is going on in your country, seeing your capital burning, and feeling this responsibility, and then winning the gold medal,” he said, “this really stands out for me.”

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A man takes a photograph of fireworks during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday.

The Associated Press

  


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