SOCHI, Russia: Sochi let its hair down on Sunday at a rollicking end-of-games Olympic party celebrating Russia’s spirit and culture through the country’s rich heritage of music and art.
The packed Fisht stadium on the Black Sea coast was in high spirits after the home nation earlier topped the medals table.
In a light-hearted reference to an embarrassing hiccup in the opening ceremony when one of the illuminated Olympic rings failed to open, hundreds of glittering performers formed four big rings and a small one, which then opened up.
The host nation’s gold medallists brought the Russian flag into the roofed stadium and stood while Valery Gergiev conducted a choir of hundreds of children singing the national anthem as President Vladimir Putin looked on.
The athletes flooded into the stadium after the national flags and the medal ceremonies were held for the women’s 30km and men’s 50km cross country skiing events – the latter of which resulted in a podium sweep for Russia.
In a show themed “Reflections of Russia”, a Marc Chagall fantasy world of brides and fiddlers, clowns and acrobats, children and animals came to life in a scene inspired by one of his paintings.
Piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev played part of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto while a further 62 pianos whirled around the stage before ballerinas from the Bolshoi and Mariinsky (Kirov) ballet companies took on roles including legendary dancer Anna Pavlova.
Twelve studios then showcased some of the country’s most treasured novelists, poets and playwrights at their writing desks – the likes of Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn.
Scores of performers cavorted on the stadium floor around a big red-and-white tent in a section showcasing Russia’s circus culture.
Following the handover of the Olympic flag to the next host city, Pyeongchang in South Korea, Sochi Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko hailed “a great moment in our history”.
“This is the new face of Russia, our Russia. And for us these Games are the best Games ever,” he said.
It was left up to the giant polar bear mascot, in a touching nod to the fondly-remembered Misha from Moscow’s 1980 Summer Olympics, to extinguish the Olympic flame.
Renowned soprano Hibla Gerzmava arrived on a fantasy boat, “Springmaker”, as children swarmed the stage, creating a vast, blossoming meadow of yellow mimosas while a shower of yellow petals drifted from the ceiling.
Fireworks exploded across Olympic Park, bringing the Games to a spectacular end before hundreds of athletes and volunteers converged on the stadium floor to party with tunes from DJ Kto (DJ Who), a renowned Russian producer and promoter.
As the stadium emptied, the Sochi party was in full swing.