The 2014 Winter Olympics came to an end on Sunday, with the heralded closing ceremony serving as a grand finale after more than two weeks of incredible competition in Sochi, Russia.
While not as grandiose as the opening ceremony that ended with a torch lighting, the closing ceremony was an amazing celebration of the Games—complete with touching moments, hilarious parody and one last look at the athletes who made it all possible.
Let’s take a look at some of the top moments, starting from the lead-up to the big event all the way through to the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.
The anticipation was palpable inside Fisht Olympic Stadium, which the Olympics’ official Twitter feed tried to convey with a photo of the arena ahead of the closing ceremony:
It was a bittersweet moment, as it marked the conclusion of a rare event that only takes place every four years. However, the Sochi Games were some of the best in history and gave fans something to remember as they wait for Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.
Nick Zaccardi of NBC Olympics noted that the Russians had a tough act to follow, considering the Canadians showcased a giant beaver during the closing ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Games:
Sochi has a tough Winter Olympic Closing Ceremony to follow ... pic.twitter.com/MQ6Lzhut2F— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 23, 2014
Alan Abrahamson of 3WireSports.com noted the start time of the closing ceremony, complete with fireworks in the night sky:
814 pm, or as they say here, 2014 hours — and closing ceremony of #Sochi2014 gets underway. Fireworks light up the night outside.— Alan Abrahamson (@alanabrahamson) February 23, 2014
Nataliya Vasilyeva of the Associated Press posted a photo of the beginning of the show:
the ceremony begins. pic.twitter.com/7CAUNrUoxS— Nataliya Vasilyeva (@NatVasilyevaAP) February 23, 2014
Abrahamson called it a “light forest” and pointed out that 700 performers were used to make images on the ground:
Anton Troianovski of The Wall Street Journal found humor in the fact that the Sochi organizers decided to poke some fun at the Olympic ring malfunction that drew a lot of flak during the opening ceremony:
It was fixed, eventually, as the Olympic feed posted a picture of what IOC president Thomas Bach called the “Athletes’ Games”:
The first celebrity that the cameras caught during the event was Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has appeared in various spots throughout the Games to support the host nation.
Philip Hersh of NBC Olympics posted a photo of the head honcho, while Abrahamson noted that he was introduced to the crowd along with current IOC president Thomas Bach and former IOC president Jacques Rogge:
The big guys pic.twitter.com/H5eQsiT7Xn— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) February 23, 2014
Putin, IOC president Bach and former president Rogge just introduced to crowd.— Alan Abrahamson (@alanabrahamson) February 23, 2014
While the Olympics represent many things, they would not be possible without the legion of athletes that each nation sends to compete in the various competitions.
The Olympics' official Twitter feed posted a handful of photos of the army of athletes entering the stadium:
Abrahamson also uploaded a picture of the athletes, pointing out the number of competitors from the various countries that competed in Sochi:
Oskar Garcia of The Associated Press noted that Victor An received big cheers during the montage of great performances during the Games:
During montage of athletes, big cheers for speedskating gold medalist Victor An. He's huge reason Russia topped medal standings. #sochi2014— Oskar Garcia (@oskargarcia) February 23, 2014
Because the competitions continued through Sunday, a handful of medals still needed to be doled out during the closing ceremony.
The Olympics' official Twitter feed highlighted the medal ceremonies for men's and women’s cross-country skiing:
Zaccardi had no issue with the number of national anthems played because of these award ceremonies:
We get to hear the Russian anthem, Norwegian anthem and Russian anthem again in a span of about 30 minutes. I have no problem with that.— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 23, 2014
Russia took this opportunity to celebrate its culture and emphasize its rich history.
According to the Olympics Twitter feed, there was a celebration of writers during the event:
Hersh posted a photo of 62 musicians manning pianos to play a tribute of Sergei Rachmaninov for the audience:
Sochi 2014 noted the main DJ:
62 piano circling in a fantastic dance to the music of Rachmaninov. The main Dj is Denis Matsuev! pic.twitter.com/4LQWzQI4uG— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 23, 2014
There was also a tribute to the circus, as Hersh caught with his photo of the clowns on stage:
Sending in the clowns pic.twitter.com/ANvUsowq9L— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) February 23, 2014
The Olympics feed showed off the giant tent that was on hand:
The Sochi Games mascots also made an appearance toward the end, via Steve Wilson of the AP:
The giant Sochi mascots are back pic.twitter.com/9jUWdfxoj3— Steve Wilson (@stevewilsonap) February 23, 2014
The Russians handed off the Olympic flag to South Korea for the upcoming Pyeongchang Games, complete with a sung version of the South Korea national anthem:
Interesting artistic choice to have the national anthem of South Korea sung, rather than just an instrumental version. #sochi2014— Oskar Garcia (@oskargarcia) February 23, 2014
Zaccardi posted a photo of Sochi receiving the Olympic flag from Vancouver back in 2010:
Here was the Sochi part of the 2010 Closing Ceremony ... pic.twitter.com/fLtLzLNrdO— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 23, 2014
Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune believed the South Korean performance was subdued but said the athletes dancing was a nice touch:
Pyeongchang does a subdued performance by Russian-standards, but Korean athletes come out the stands to dance at the end. That's pretty fun.— Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 23, 2014
It was an epic Winter Olympics, and it will be sad to see them go, which is why the bear mascot cried as he extinguished the Olympic flame to mark the official end of the Games:
Abrahamson noted that the outside cauldron was also put out at the same time:
A tear goes down the cheek of the giant mascot bear as the flame goes out. Outside the cauldron is extinguished …— Alan Abrahamson (@alanabrahamson) February 23, 2014
Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press said the Games ended in style, showing a photo of fireworks outside the building:
St. Clair gave a first-hand account of the stadium shaking due to the vast pyrotechnic display:
It was a fitting end to an incredible stretch of Olympic action in Sochi.
Athletes who competed in Sochi and those who weren’t fortunate enough or old enough to make it will train relentlessly for the next four years in order to represent their country in Pyeongchang come 2018.
The Winter Olympics are a special moment and represent different sports' apex for the majority of these disciplines, but that doesn’t mean their competition stops during the lull between Games.
If you fell in love with a participant or sport during the Games, make sure you tune in and support these incredible athletes during their World Cups, World Championships and various other competitions that will take place between the end of Sochi and the start of Pyeongchang.