Errors Aside, Sochi Seen as a Success
Published: February 26, 2014 (Issue # 1799)
SOCHI — As President Vladimir Putin declared the 2014 Winter Olympics closed on Sunday, the International Olympic Committee’s president said the Sochi Games had “proven critics wrong” and praised the Russian president’s handling of the event.
“We saw excellent Games and what counts most is the opinions of the athletes, and they were enormously satisfied,” Thomas Bach said.
Concerns over possible terrorist attacks, botched facilities, unfinished hotels and human rights seemed all but forgotten as soon as the Games kicked off with a lavish opening ceremony and proceeded smoothly, with athletes unanimously expressing satisfaction.
But by the end of the Olympics, several incidents threatened to put Russia’s newly polished image to the test, with political turmoil in neighboring Ukraine and an embarrassing video of security officers beating Pussy Riot members in Sochi at risk of overshadowing the Games’ success.
Just as Russia achieved the impressive feat of topping the Olympic total and gold medal count — showing the best result the country has had during all Winter Olympics — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted amid violence and chaos in nearby Kiev. The images of a nervous and confused Yanukovych addressing the nation in a video in which he refused to recognize the parliament that had just voted to impeach him stood in stark contrast with the image of him cheerfully waving the Ukrainian flag weeks earlier at the opening ceremony in Sochi.
The turbulent power reshuffle in Ukraine prompted speculation about how it would reflect on Russia, with some saying Yanukovych’s removal could prove embarrassing for Moscow.
Russia faced a sporting disappointment earlier on, when the national men’s hockey team failed to win, continuing the losing streak that has plagued Russia’s signature sport for decades.
Three-time Olympic champion and legendary goaltender Vladislav Tretiak said he was sad the Olympics were wrapping up, but he did not think the hockey defeat was the end of the world.
“I hope that after the end of the Games, all sports facilities in Sochi will be used and will serve our people, and we can still win in hockey one day in the future,” he said, walking along the seaside in central Sochi.
Visitors to the Games seemed equally wistful that the festivities were over, but most said it was an experience that they would not forget any time soon.
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