The show at the Fisht Stadium on the Black Sea coast opened with
a volley of fireworks and a boat suspended high in the air above
waves formed by lines of hundreds of dancers in shimmering costumes.
They began to form the five rings of the Olympic symbol, but, in a
reference to an embarrassing technical hitch during the opening
ceremony when one failed to open, only four circles appeared.
After laughs and loud applause from the audience, the fifth ring
eventually opened, and the mood was immediately more playful than an
opening spectacle which had sought to portray Russia as a strong
nation with nothing to fear.
"They are two very complementary shows," said Marco Balich, artistic
executive producer of the ceremony, before it began.
"As grand as the opening was, with this one they went for another
side of Russia — intimate, full of heart, and they (organizers)
mentioned the word 'nostalgia'," he told Reuters.
It was as if Russia no longer had so much to prove.
"This is the new face of Russia, our Russia," Dmitry Chernyshenko,
president of the Sochi organizing committee, said during his
The sense of national pride at a team of athletes that topped the
medals table after a "super Sunday" fairytale ending to the Games
was palpable, as huge roars erupted for the Russian team as they
paraded past the crowds.
"Well done!" chanted tens of thousands of Russians as Alexander
Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin and Ilia Chernousov received their gold,
silver and bronze medals won in a clean sweep of the men's 50km
cross country ski race earlier in the day.
Alexander Zubkov also led his team to glory in Sunday's four-man
bobsleigh, leaving Russia top of the medals table with 13 golds and
33 medals in all.
After a rousing rendition of the national anthem by a choir of
hundreds of children, the ceremony took viewers on a journey through
Russia's rich heritage of visual arts, music, literature and dance.
First there were floating houses and mysterious figures inspired by
the paintings of Marc Chagall.
Then came pianist Denis Matsuev to play Rachmaninoff's "Piano
Concert No. 2" as dozens of pianos were wheeled on to the floor
around him in a carefully choreographed sequence that was captured
best by the television cameras.
Next, beneath a huge chandelier, two theatre curtains drew back and
dancers from the two rival ballet companies — the Bolshoi of Moscow
and Mariinsky of St. Petersburg — emerged to perform some of the
great dances of the genre.
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In the fourth segment dedicated to literature, dissident author
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was remembered alongside Alexander Pushkin,
Fyodor Dostoyevsky and many other leading writers in another
gargantuan display, this time recreating a library.
And, before the handover to South Korea's 2018 Winter Games host
city Pyeongchang began, there was an ode to Russia's circus
tradition, with a big top going up and clowns and acrobats dancing,
jumping and twirling in trapezes.
BIGGEST CLOSING SHOW
It will come as no surprise that Sochi's was the biggest Winter
Olympics closing ceremony ever staged, according to organizers, a
fitting send-off for a Games estimated to have cost $51 billion to
stage — far more than any other Games Winter or Summer.
The feel-good factor the athletes have created has gone a long way
to dispelling criticism during the buildup to the Games of Russia's
human rights record, allegations of corruption and profligacy and
the threat of Islamist militant attack.
Voices of dissent have been heard, but they have largely been
drowned out by sporting endeavor on ice and snow in Sochi's
futuristic Olympic Park and amid the peaks of the Caucasus.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach gave Russia a
resounding vote of confidence in his closing address.
"Tonight we can say: Russia delivered all what it had promised," he
said. "What took decades in other parts of the world was achieved
here in Sochi in just seven years."
Addressing the army of volunteers who helped guide athletes,
reporters and visitors to their destinations, he said:
"Through you, everybody with an open mind could see the face of a
new Russia: efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world.
We arrived with great respect for the rich and varied history of
Russia. We leave as friends of the Russian people."
After Bach formally declared the Sochi Games closed, three giant
mascots of the Games — a bear, a snow leopard and a hare — appeared
and the bear blew out the Olympic flame.
A thousand children from the Pan-Russian Choir performed in a
rousing finale symbolizing the arrival spring, before choreographed
fireworks exploded from the roof of the stadium.
(Editing by Mitch Phillips)
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