Russia lightens up with softer image at closing ceremony

Sun Feb 23, 2014 1:45pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - An emotional closing ceremony at Russia's first Winter Olympics painted the hosts in soft colors, in contrast to the muscular, assertive spectacle that kicked off the Games, and there was even room for a joke at the home nation's expense.

The show at the Fisht Stadium on the Black Sea coast opened with a volley of fireworks and a boat suspended high in the air above waves formed by lines of hundreds of dancers in shimmering costumes.

They began to form the five rings of the Olympic symbol, but, in a reference to an embarrassing technical hitch during the opening ceremony when one failed to open, only four circles appeared.

After laughs and loud applause from the audience, the fifth ring eventually opened, and the mood was immediately more playful than an opening spectacle which had sought to portray Russia as a strong nation with nothing to fear.

"They are two very complementary shows," said Marco Balich, artistic executive producer of the ceremony, before it began.

"As grand as the opening was, with this one they went for another side of Russia - intimate, full of heart, and they (organizers) mentioned the word 'nostalgia'," he told Reuters.

It was as if Russia no longer had so much to prove.

"This is the new face of Russia, our Russia," Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi organizing committee, said during his farewell speech.   Continued...

A performer takes part in the presentation for the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018 during the closing ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 23, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young