SOCHI, Russia (AP) ― 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. Said the head of the International Olympic Committee: “Russia delivered all what it had promised.”
Raucous spectators chanted “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!” ― “Russia! Russia!” ― before being surrounded by multicolored fireworks and carried through a visually stunning, sometimes surrealistic panorama of Russian history and culture. The crowd was in a party mood after the high-security games passed off safely without feared terror attacks.
“This is the new face of Russia ― our Russia,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee. He called the Games “a moment to cherish and pass on to the next generations.”
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 center 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.
The closing ceremony, a farewell from Russia with love, pageantry and protocol, started at 20:14 local time ― a nod to the year that Putin seized upon to remake Russia’s image with the Olympics’ power to wow and concentrate global attention and massive resources.