Monday, 21 February 2022 10:40

Beijing Games close as Olympic chief praises exceptional event




The 2022 Winter Olympic Games were formally closed at a ceremony on Sunday

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have come to a close at a vibrant ceremony in the Chinese capital where IOC president Thomas Bach thanked the hosts for what he described as a "truly exceptional" edition of the Games.

After more than two weeks of action, the Olympic flame was extinguished and the flag passed on to the 2026 hosts of the Winter Games in the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Sunday’s ceremony paid tribute to the athletes who have illuminated the Olympics across the past two weeks, as well as the volunteers and support staff in China.

"This unforgettable experience was only possible because of our gracious hosts, the Chinese people," said International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Bach.

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"With over 300 million people now engaged in winter sports, with the great success of the Chinese athletes, the positive legacy of these Olympic Winter Games is ensured.

"With the truly exceptional Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 we welcome China as a winter sport country."

Just as with the opening ceremony in Beijing on February 4, children were at the center of the closing spectacular at the Chinese National Stadium — better known as ‘the Bird’s Nest’ — which was again directed by the renowned Zhang Yimou.

The Olympic flame, which had taken pride of place at the center of a giant snowflake bearing the names of each of the participating Olympic committees, descended as children carrying lights danced around.

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Bach gave a speech in which he also issued a call to "overcome this pandemic," after another Games had played out in the midst of stringent Covid-19 controls and a ban on foreign fans.

"If we want to finally overcome this pandemic, we must be fast, we must aim higher, we must be stronger, we must stand together," Bach said.

"In this Olympic spirit of solidarity, we call on the international community: give equal access to vaccines to everybody around the world."

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The athletes filed into the stadium flanked by colorful dancers, with the Russian contingent led by flag bearer Alexander Bolshunov, who became his country’s most decorated Olympic skier ever with three gold medals at the Games.

Bolshunov had the extra joy of being handed his gold medal for the cross-country marathon at the closing ceremony on Sunday, while countryman Ivan Yakimushkin received his silver.

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The Olympic flag was passed on from the mayor of Beijing to officials from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, the venues which will jointly host the 2026 edition of the Winter Games.

In welcoming the Winter Games, Beijing had become the first city ever to hold both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

A final video montage featuring megastar Beijing mascot Bing Dwen Dwen helped close out the ceremony as the Olympic flame was extinguished and fireworks illuminated the Beijing night sky.

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IOC chief Bach and the Chinese hosts will be pleased that the Games have passed off despite the specter of Covid still significantly affecting their organization and planning, as well as the backdrop of diplomatic boycotts from the likes of the US and some of its allies.

The Games have provided some unforgettable moments and iconic performances from the likes of Bolshunov, as well as seeing hosts China produce a record medal haul for the country, with nine golds and 15 medals in total.

However, there have also been scandals and the unfortunate drama involving Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva and her treatment has undoubtedly cast something of a shadow over the past two weeks.

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The medal table for Beijing 2022 was topped by winter sports powerhouses Norway with 16 gold medals and 37 in total.

The ROC team earned six golds, which put them ninth in the standings, but Russian athletes were second in terms of the overall medal tally with 32 — behind only the Norwegians.

Beijing will next play host to the Winter Paralympics from March 4 to 13.

(RT.com)