Sochi Olympics: Russia Rings in Close With a Laugh at Itself

While the popular portrayal of Russia generally falls on the side of humorless — a holdover, no doubt, from the Cold War and the potato vodka and bad translations of Crime and Punishment – the federation took a lighthearted approach toward the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, recalling the Opening Ceremony’s ring malfunction by having dancers recreate the four functioning rings of the Olympic insignia. It was a clever nod to what could have been the defining metaphor of the games, but as an exhalation and an exclamation point, the dancers swarmed out to complete the fifth ring as the world caught a collective breath.

Sochi, which seemed to have been destined for disaster after disaster — from suicide bombers to unfinished hotels to an “extreme pillow shortage” to whatever happened to Bob Costas’s eye — had gone off without a hitch. The relief was palpable, and as the athletes marched out with their medals, it was easy. Also, the Russians won a ton of medals during Sochi, and all of them came out with their winnings. Certainly a nice bit of national pride to bolster spirits and probably allow for a bit of chuckling self-deprecation.

The ring joke occurred during a performance called “Reflections of Russia,” a piece designed to showcase the country’s famous artists, writers, and musicians (including Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, which is very funny in a slightly different way). For a country that cleaned up so thoroughly during the events, coming in first place for medals overall, it was a declaration that it was officially having a good time.

The Closing Ceremony finished with International Olympic Committee Director Thomas Bach hailing Russia as having “delivered all that it had promised” before continuing to un-ironically describe Russia as “efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world.” The Sochi Games have cost in excess of $50 billion, with graft, bribery, and kickbacks accounting for a large portion of the final bill.

The next Winter Olympic Games are scheduled for Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. Russia snagged 33 medals, including 13 golds. Behind them was Norway with 26 medals (11 gold), which narrowly beat out Canada’s 25 overall and 10 golds. The United States finished fourth in the gold medal count, with nine, but accumulated 28 medals overall.

More from Wall St. Cheat Sheet: