Sochi, Russia: IOC President Thomas Bach paid a personal tribute to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in his closing ceremony speech at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Sunday night. President Bach thanked Putin for his “personal commitment to the extraordinary success of these Olympic Winter Games”, as Putin watched on from the stands.
“The Russian government, the organizing committee, the Russian Olympic Committee, the IOC members in Russia and all the people of Sochi and Russia deserve our gratitude,” he added.
Bach said the 25,000 volunteers had shown the new face of Russia, efficient and friendly and open to the world, and described the Sochi Winter Olympics as “the Athletes’ Games”.
Earlier in his address, the IOC President urged global leaders to follow the Olympic society in displaying peace, tolerance and respect, which he described as sending a “powerful message” around the world.
“Athletes, you have inspired for the last magnificent 17 days and you have excelled in your competitions and shared your emotions with us and the whole world.”
He added that Sochi and Russia had delivered on all their promises and had achieved in seven years what took decades in other countries – to build a new international city for winter and summer sports complete with the necessary infrastructure. The conditions, he added, were “exceptional”.
Bach then declared the 22nd Winter Olympics closed, and the flame that was lit on February 7 was extinguished.
At the beginning of the closing ceremony when the athletes walked into the arena, India's Himanshu Thakur, an alpine skier, had the honour of carrying his country’s flag after the IOC lifted its suspension of the Indian Olympic Association during the Games – a first for the IOC.
The Indian athletes had entered the stadium for the opening ceremony on February 7 behind the IOC flag and competing as Independent Olympic Participants.
The IOC flag was handed over from Sochi to PyeongChang Mayor Lee Seok-Rae, via IOC President Bach, ready for the next Winter Olympics in Korea in February 2018. After the Korean national anthem and flag-raising, PyeongChang offered the watching world a glimpse of the traditions and culture to come in four years’ time with a short cultural performance.
The closing ceremony tapped into Russia’s rich contribution to the arts, featuring music, ballet, literature and circus acrobatics in a bed-time story setting.