SOCHI, Russia: Russia on Sunday (Monday in Manila) laid on a glittering closing ceremony in Sochi to draw the curtain on the Winter Paralympic Games hailed as the “best ever” but held under the long shadow of the standoff over Crimea.
The ceremony took place on the same day as the controversial referendum in Crimea on the Ukrainian region—just across the Black Sea from Sochi—becoming part of Russia, underlining how the spectre of the Ukraine crisis has never been far from these Games.
The closing ceremony at the Fisht stadium in Sochi, attended by President Vladimir Putin, marked the end of Russia’s Olympics, which began on February 7 with the opening ceremony for the Olympic Winter Games.
The fire in the Olympic cauldron was extinguished and the flag given to the next Winter Olympic hosts PyeongChang in South Korea, bringing a close to a journey that began in 2007 when Putin won the right to host the Winter Games.
Putin, who spearheaded the bid to host both the Olympic Winter Games and the Winter Paralympic Games, was present in the VIP stands at the closing ceremony but in line with protocol did not make any comment.
The hosts basked in the glory of easily topping the medals table with 30 golds, well ahead of second placed Germany who won nine. Ukraine also performed strongly, coming fourth with five golds.