Russia has fun in Sochi closing ceremony

13:41, Feb 24 2014
Sochi closing ceremony
A giant bear blows out the Olympic Flame, a hallmark of 'optimistic wistfulness'.
sochi closing ceremony
Bear has some equally oversize friends.
Sochi closing ceremony
That's giant bear breath you can see.
Sochi closing ceremony
Russian President Vladimir Putin mingles with Russia's gold medallist bobsleigh athlete Alexander Zubkov.
Sochi closing ceremony
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev ups the drama with a performance of Rachmaninov.
Sochi closing ceremony
It's hard to say what's going on here, but it makes a striking image.
Sochi closing ceremony
Sochi laughs at itself, with a recreation of the snowflake malfunction from the opening ceremony.
Sochi closing ceremony
But this time they get there in the end.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi have signed off with an arthouse, Cirque du Soleil-like ceremony and a splash of self-deprecating humour.

It included a moment when a crowd of glittery dancers, in the process of forming the Olympic rings, recreated the "malfunctioning snowflake" that marred the opening ceremony - then they completed the figure.

There was also a dash of politics, where the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said "everybody with an open mind" could see a new, friendly and open Russia reflected in the Games.

And it ended, as all journeys of optimistic wistfulness tend to end, with a giant robot bear blowing out the Olympic flame.

The creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies, Konstantin Ernst, said the closing ceremony was a "journey through Russian culture".

The artistic sequences were divided between painting, music, ballet, literature and the circus.

Highlights included a choreographed dance of 62 grand pianos to a live Rachmaninov performance by Denis Matsuev, a tornado of paper in a sequence honouring Russian writers such as Tolstoy and Chekhov, and a 190-person circus troupe beside an impromptu big top.

Korea gave a prelude to their 2018 Games at Pyeongchang with a musical sequence that began calm and mystical and ended with dancing children scrawling an invitation in the snow - but didn't include any Gangnam Style dancing.

Sochi 2014 organising committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko cheekily stole the line used by former IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch, saying "For us these Games are the best Games ever."

He said the Games were "the new face of Russia, our Russia."

Bach said: "By living together under one roof in the Olympic Village [the athletes had sent] a powerful message from Sochi to the world - the message of a society of peace, tolerance and respect.

"I appeal to everybody implicated in confrontation, oppression or violence: act on this Olympic message of dialogue and peace."

He thanked Russia and its president Vladimir Putin for "delivering what you promised".

He also thanked the Games volunteers, saying "through you everybody with an open mind could see the face of a new Russia: efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world."

At the end of the ceremony, a giant animatronic mascot bear blew out the Olympic flame, surrounded by candle-carrying children.

The children danced and sang in a field of bright yellow mimosa petals, symbolising hope.

"A closing ceremony should be imbued with an optimistic wistfulness," Ernst said.

"[It is] when the Olympic Games become part of history. Some people have triumphed and some defeated.

"In two weeks time we are going to enter spring.This is a message of the future. The Winter Olympics are over, this is the end of winter."

But the future in Russia may not be bright for absolutely everyone.

A few hours before the closing ceremony two activists, Olga Noskovets from an environmental group and social activist David Hakim, were detained by police at a bus stop in downtown Sochi.

The pair previously accompanied Pussy Riot during their colourful, painful visit to the Olympic city.

Colleagues at the Environmental Watch on North Caucuses said Noskovets and Hakim who had been charged with having irregular identification and for "disobedience", would be detained for 48 hours and if found guilty faced a 15 day sentence.

Many human rights activists fear a crackdown on dissent once the Olympic spotlight has moved on.


Sydney Morning Herald