Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Memo extra: Прощай, Сочи (Goodbye, Sochi)

Citius, Altius, Fortius / To the victors went the gold medals.

Прощай, Сочи. 

It's time to say goodbye, Sochi. Over the last two weeks and three weekends, the Sochi Winter Olympics were filled with lots of excitement. 

Sometimes, it was loud, sometimes it was elegant. There were plenty of thrills and excitement, just a few spills and disappointments, but enough flash and panache to make it all seem worthwhile.

We tuned in to the Winter Games at all hours of the day and night via television. We watched online. We kept up-to-date while going about our daily lives with the aid of our smartphones, mining for scores and results. For those of us who cared, the lessons we learned about Russia's history and of its culture were a real treat.

Sometimes, even in the Olympics, history has a way of repeating itself. Canada proved its superiority in ice hockey, while the Dutch masters from the Netherlands  -- the Oranje crush -- were untouchable in long track speed skating. And, host Russia, culminated by their sweep in the men's 50-kilometer cross country ski race and gold-medal performance in the four-man bobsled, won the most medals overall with 33, including 13 gold.

Thank you to the youth of the world -- such as 19-year-old figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, the first Asian male to win an Olympic figure skating gold medal.

Thank you to the young at heart -- like Norway's Marit Bjøergen, 31, the most successful female winter Olympian of all time, who won three gold medals in Sochi in cross-country skiing, and now has amassed 10 total medals spread over four Winter Games. On Sunday, Bjøergen received her final gold medal during the Closing Ceremonies before over 40,000 appreciative fans. She was truly touched by this unforgettable moment. 

And, who can forget Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjøerndalen, who at age 40 claimed his 13th Olympic medal to become the most medaled Olympian in the history of the Winter Games. He won his first medal at the Nagano Games in 1998 and has kept earning medals since, including two gold medals at Sochi.

Finally, thank you to all of the world's elite athletes who competed fairly while pursuing their Olympic dreams. Faster, higher, stronger still means playing by the rules. And, in the Olympic sport of curling, a game of skill and traditions -- the one played with the funny little brooms -- curlers played to win but never to humble their opponents, in following the etiquette of the game. For those who did compete fairly on the snow and ice, each of you left us with many wonderful memories that we'll cherish for a lifetime.

Спасибо, Сочи.

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