December 19, 2014 / 7:28 PM / 3 years ago

Billion-dollar Sochi Games a sporting success

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach of Germany and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stand together during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Sochi 2014 winter Olympics have gone down in history as the most expensive sports event ever organized with a staggering cost of more than $51 billion.

The legacy left by Russia’s first winter Games is one of gleaming purpose-built arenas with little or no post-Games use, a massive overhaul of infrastructure at the Black sea resort and a record price tag that triggered changes for future Olympics.

Despite months of bad press in the run up to the Games over Russia’s human rights record and anti-gay propaganda law, when the competitions started the Olympics were a sporting success.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin in the stands for a project he helped bring to his country back in 2007, when sports took center stage, the fate of stray dogs, double toilets and #sochiproblems top trending on Twitter all slipped into the background.

American snowboarder Shaun White failed to shine again on the Olympic stage, withdrawing over safety fears in the inaugural slopestyle competition leaving Sage Kotsenburg as the first ever Olympic slopestyle gold medalist.

The women’s ski jumping competition was also one of 12 new events, with teenage American Sarah Hendrickson becoming the first woman to soar through the air at an Olympics, going on to finish 21st.

Germany’s Carina Vogt flew 104.5 meters to win the milestone event, the culmination of a 13-year fight by female athletes to be allowed to take part.

Another first was the shared gold medal in the women’s downhill at Rosa Khutor’s 2,713 metre-long run, with Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Swiss Dominique Gisin both clocking one minute 41.57 seconds.

Belarus’ Darya Domracheva dazzled in Sochi, becoming the first woman to win three biathlon titles at the same winter Olympics.

RECORD MEDAL

For Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, there was nothing novel about another gold medal but it was a record 13th Winter Games gong after he helped his country to the biathlon team mixed relay title.

The 40-year-old edged ahead of former cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie and moved alongside his compatriot as the leading all-time Winter Olympics gold medalist with eight.

The Dutch dominated speedskating like few nations have done in any sport, winning 21 of 30 individual medals and four medal sweeps, turning the Adler arena orange.

There was also joy for the hosts, with Viktor Ahn, an adopted Russian after switching allegiance from South Korea, winning two gold medals in an hour at the Iceberg arena.

He confirmed himself among the Olympic greats with victory in the 500 meters individual and 45 minutes later returned to help Russia win the 5,000m relay.

Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova won the women’s figure skating individual title amid accusations from South Korea of biased judges after their Vancouver winner Kim Yuna was beaten into second.

But the home team was hit by tragedy when Russian ski cross athlete Maria Komissarova broke her back during a training run for the extreme sport.

She underwent hours-long surgery and was taken abroad for further treatment but has been paralyzed since.

The growing conflict in neighboring Ukraine also cast its shadow during the Games with Ukraine athletes told not to mourn the dead, killed during protests back in Kiev.

The Sochi Olympics have since triggered changes for future hosts as the International Olympic Committee saw four of six bid cities for the 2022 Olympics pull out in mid-race -- scared off by Sochi’s price tag.

The IOC has introduced changes to allow outsourcing competitions to other cities or even countries to keep the cost down and assure their prime winter product remains attractive.

It has also strengthened its anti-discrimination clause to avoid a repeat of the Russian law that raised concerns from sponsors and also saw some calls for a boycott.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Justin Palmer

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