A choir of 1,000 Russian children sang the national anthem in a stirring closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The 40,000-seat stadium was bursting with Russian pride. Four years ago, at Vancouver, Russia placed 11th in the medals count. In Sochi, they unexpectedly vaulted to the top.
Khristina, a volunteer from Moscow, captured Russia’s mood:
“I am not a very patriotic person, but I have seen Russia at the top of the medals table, and seen them win two events today. This is really great, really good for the country,” said she.
The glittering closing ceremony involved 5,500 costumes and 44,000 props.
Russian themes dominated - classical ballerinas twirled, circus acrobats performed flips, a pianist played classical Russian compositions, and a whirlwind funneled skyward the writings of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoevsky.
President Putin appeared in a business suit, smiling and waving in his usual restrained style. He left it to the head of his Olympic organizing committee, Dmitriy Chernyshenko, to proclaim that the world had seen the “face of the new Russia.”
And the politicians left mood creation to the platoons of world class winter athletes who paraded - dancing, waving and cheering - around the packed stadium.
After all the nervousness about possible terrorist attacks or construction failings, Russians basked Sunday in the praise of international Olympic officials, who told reporters that the Sochi Winter Olympics were a success.
Khristina, the volunteer, confirmed this.
“It was really great that the Olympics went well, that Russia got the most medals, that the closing ceremony was amazing, and nothing major happened, no terrorist attacks” said she.
Toward the end of Sunday’s ceremony, South Korea’s national anthem was played, and the Olympic flag was handed to Lee Seok-rae, mayor of Pyeongchang, South Korea - the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
At the very end, the Polar Bear, one of Sochi’s three Olympic mascots, shed an ice blue tear - and then blew out the Olympic flame.