It has been a long and exciting seventeen days for Olympic fans in Fresno and all around the world, but sadly, all good things must come to an end. But unfortunately, the 22nd annual Olympic Winter Games ended in grand style (aw we are watching on NBC right now as of 8:30 PM PST) with tonight's closing ceremonies in the packed Fisht Stadium on the Black Sea coast of Sochi, Russia.
The host nation, the Russian Federation, took home the leading medal count this year with 33 total medals (13 gold, 11 silver, 9 bronze), with Team USA coming in second place with 28 medals (9 gold, 7 silver, 12 bronze), and Norway coming in third place with 26 medals (11 gold, 5 silver, 10 bronze).
As outlined by abc.net.au, a light-hearted reference was made to an embarrassing hiccup in this year's opening ceremony when one of the illuminated Olympic rings failed to open, by having hundreds of glittering performers form four big rings and a small one, which then opened up.
The host nation's gold medallists brought the Russian flag into the roofed stadium and stood while Valery Gergiev conducted a choir of hundreds of children singing the national anthem as president Vladimir Putin looked on.
The athletes flooded into the stadium after the national flags and the medal ceremonies were held both for the women's 30km and men's 50km cross-country skiing events - the latter of which having resulted in a podium sweep for Russia.
Following medal ceremonies was a show called Reflections of Russia, a Marc Chagall fantasy world of brides and fiddlers, clowns and acrobats, children and animals came to life in a scene inspired by one of his paintings. Piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev then played part of Rachmaninov's second piano concerto while 62 other pianos whirled around the stage before ballerinas from the Bolshoi and Mariinsky (Kirov) ballet companies took on roles including legendary dancer Anna Pavlova.
People ins the audience then watched as twelve studios showcased some of the country's most treasured novelists, poets and playwrights at their writing desks - such greats as Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn. Scores of performers then gathered on the stadium floor around a big red-and-white tent in a section showcasing Russia's circus culture.
After the handover of the Olympic flag to the next host city, Pyeongchang in South Korea, Sochi Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko hailed this year's games as "a great moment in our history". He said, "This is the new face of Russia, our Russia. And for us these Games are the best Games ever."
The giant polar bear mascot, in a touching nod to the fondly remembered Misha from Moscow's 1980 Summer Olympics, was tasked with extinguishing the Olympic flame.
Renowned soprano Hibla Gerzmava then arrived on a fantasy boat, "Springmaker", as children swarmed the stage, creating a vast, blossoming meadow of yellow mimosas while a shower of yellow petals drifted from the ceiling.
The Games came to a stunning conclusion as fireworks exploded across Olympic Park, before hundreds of athletes and volunteers converged on the stadium floor to party with music from Russian producer and promoter DJ Kto.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach congratulated Russia for delivering "all what it had promised" in their hosting of this year's Games and thanked Vladimir Putin for his role in ensuring their "extraordinary success". Bach echoed the sentiment of Chernyshenko by saying that the 2014 Olympics helped show "the face of a new Russia, efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world", describing these Olympics as "the athletes' Games". He said Russia and Putin had fulfilled all the promises they made when their bid was accepted in 2007. "Our Russian hosts had promised excellent sports venues, outstanding Olympic villages and an impeccable organisation. Tonight we can say: Russia delivered all what it had promised."
Now, granted, there are plenty of athletes and members of the media that may disagree with Bach considering how the awful accommodation conditions of many dominated much of the press for the early stages of the Games, in addition to concerns over Russia's controversial new anti-homosexual propaganda laws.
Nevertheless, Bach hailed the Games as sending a message of "peace, tolerance and respect". He said, "I appeal to everybody implicated in confrontation, oppression or violence - act on this Olympic message of dialogue and peace."
He also praised the thousands of mainly young volunteers from across Russia who took part in the organisation, saying their involvement boded well for the future of the country. "Through you, everybody with an open mind could see the face of a new Russia: efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world. All our partners and friends allowed the world's best athletes to give their best. These were the Athletes' Games."
This examiner would like to congratulate all of the athletes that made up Team USA for this year's Games. Despite not coming home in first place this year, none of them are losers and all of them represent the best that our country has to offer.