Bach hails Sochi success story

Congleton Guardian: Fireworks over the Fisht Olympic Stadium mark the end of the Games Fireworks over the Fisht Olympic Stadium mark the end of the Games

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach hailed the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and admitted Russia had delivered on its promise at the climax of Sunday's closing ceremony.

The Sochi Olympics have cost Russia a reported £30million to stage and president Vladimir Putin and spectators in the Fisht Olympic Stadium witnessed a spectacular show which focused on the art, music, dance and literature of the host nation.

It also featured the traditional athletes' parade and extinguishing of the Olympic flame, plus the official handover to 2018 hosts Pyeongchang.

Bach said: "We all have enjoyed exceptional conditions in these Olympic Winter Games.

"Our Russian hosts had promised excellent sports venues, outstanding Olympic Villages and an impeccable organisation.

"Russia delivered all what it had promised."

Bach thanked Sochi, Russia and, in particular, the athletes, who he suggested had delivered "a message of a society of peace, tolerance and respect" with the community they had formed at the event.

A major talking point in the build-up to and duration of these Olympics has been Russia's hard-line laws on ''non-traditional'' sexuality, widely seen as an attack on gay rights.

And addressing the athletes, Bach said: "By living together under one roof in the Olympic Village you send 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."

During his speech Sochi 2014 organising committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko spoke of the "the new face of Russia" that had been showcased by the Games.

There was a notable light-hearted moment in the proceedings as well when the infamous Olympic rings malfunction from the opening ceremony was parodied by a group of dancers and big screens showed highlights of the sporting action that had taken place between the two shows and ended with Russia at the top of the medal table.

Soon after, those who had competed emerged for the parade, with skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold bearing the flag at the head of the Great Britain party and the hosts being led by Maxim Trankov, who, along with partner Tatiana Volosozhar, had earned gold medals in both the pairs and team figure skating events.

A celebration of the Russian arts followed, featuring a version of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 2, tributes to the work of Kandinsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov and sequences focusing on the ballet and the circus.

The handover ceremony then took place, with the Olympic flag being passed from the mayor of Sochi to his Pyeongchang counterpart and the 2018 hosts contributing their own performance to the evening.

After the speeches, in which Bach declared the Games officially closed, giant versions of the official mascots congregated in the middle of the stadium around a flame and blew it out, simultaneous to the one in the cauldron outside also being extinguished.

The Sochi extravaganza had reached its end, but memories of Putin's Olympic party will live on for some time.

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