Staff WriterThe controversial and politically-charged 2014 Winter Olympics have ended as of Sunday, February 23rd. Spectators in Sochi, Russia were treated to a fantastic ceremony that combined Russian patriotism with elaborate displays and musical accompaniment. As conductor Valery Gergiev led 1,000 choir children in a stunning rendition of the Russian national anthem, the host country's 13 gold medal winners stood in front of them to celebrate Russia's staggering achievements during this year's events. In light of recent, ugly events which brought Russian authorities under fire, such as the abuse and detainment of LGBT and environmental activists, the host of the 2014 Winter games pulled out all the stops in their grand finale. Massive firework displays, an elaborate piano concert by Denis Matsuev performing Rachmaninoff in the midst of over 240 performers and 60 other pianos, and images of classic Russian writers such as Chekhov and Dostoyevsky emerging from beneath the stage were just some of what the ceremony had to offer. Russia, having clinched the top-three spots in the 50-kilometer cross-country skiing race earlier that day, concluded the costliest Olympics in history on a high-note as President Vladimir Putin looked on with pride. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, has since called the games an “extraordinary success”, lauding Russia for providing “excellent” venues, “outstanding” accommodation and “impeccable organization”. Bach was quoted as saying that, “We leave as friends of the Russian people." This is in fairly stark contrast to various experiences from the athletes themselves, such as US bobsledder Johnny Quinn being trapped twice within a space of 48 hours (once in a lift and then once more in a restroom). Having also endured the knowledge of violence in neighboring Ukraine, as well as the sight of Cossack security force members whipping punk-activist group Pussy Riot in the street, one could understand an undercurrent of tension among spectators and athletes at the Sochi Olympic games. But security was handled well and fears of a potential terrorist attack were assuaged as the games commenced and the focus turned from controversy to competition. Putin intends to bring further attention to Sochi after the Olympic buzz has left the city, and hopes to generate greater tourism by featuring the now-unused Olympic buildings as would-be attractions. Plans have already been made: Fisht Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, will host the 2018 World Cup, while the media center is now set to become a huge shopping center. Critics wonder who might have the incentive to visit now that the games have ended, but Putin appears confident in his schemes. He continues to deny rumors of foul play over financing for the games as he looks ahead to Russia's future.
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