The Sochi Winter Games have wrapped up with the closing ceremony held in the Fisht Olympic Stadium. The next Winter Games are to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.
The Games ended on Sunday night as they do at every Games, be they summer or winter, with the Olympic Flame being extinguished. This time, it was a larger-than-life mechanical bear that "blew out" the flame towards the end of a glitzy, emotional closing ceremony.
At the start of the ceremony, which ran for well over two hours, the organizers of the Sochi Games proved that they were capable of a little self-depreciating humor.
As around 700 dancers formed the five Olympic rings on the floor of the Fisht Stadium, they delayed forming the fifth one, in a nod to a malfunction during the opening ceremony, in which the same top right ring failed to illuminate.
The packed house cheered as the spectators realized what was happening, as the dancers representing that ring remained in a smaller, filled circle. They then roared their approval a few second later when the dancers spread apart to form the fully-shaped ring.
Over the next couple of hours the spectators in the stadium as well as those watching on television around the world saw a closing ceremony filled with pageantry and protocol.
Among those who performed at the ceremony were dancers from the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky ballet companies, two of the world's oldest.
At another point the faces of famous Russian authors were projected onto huge screens, and a pile of books transformed into a swirling, loose pages.
Hundreds of athletes who had not yet left Sochi also entered the stadium, led by the winners of Russia's record 13 gold medals, who carried the country's white, blue and red flag, which was raised alongside the Olympic flag.
Lavish praise from the IOC president
Russian President Vladimir Putin was among those watching from the stands, as the president of the International Olympic Committee, Germany's Thomas Bach, delivered lavish praise of the Games.
"Russia delivered all what it had promised," Bach said. "What took decades in other parts of the world was achieved here in just seven years," he added.
"I would like to thank the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Vladimir Putin, for his personal commitment to the extraordinary success of these Olympic Winter Games," Bach concluded.
Also during the ceremony, the Olympic flag was lowered and handed to the host of the next Winter Games, South Korea.
"I declare the 22nd Olympic Winter Games closed. In accordance with tradition, I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in PyeongChang to celebrate with us the 23rd Olympic Winter Games," Bach said.
pfd/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)