Winter Olympics pass the torch at Beijing closing ceremony
Beijing, China - China passed the torch as Olympic host after a spectacular ceremony in the Bird's Nest stadium officially closed the 24th Winter Games in Beijing on Sunday.
The ceremony, themed One World, One Family, brought to an end 17 days of sports action and scandal at a Games held amid both the coronavirus pandemic and disputes over the human rights record of the host.
The Olympic flame in the Bird's Nest Stadium was extinguished a few minutes after International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach declared the 24th Winter Games in Beijing closed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the dignitaries in attendance but many western nations have staged a diplomatic boycott of the Games. There was also the shadow of potential conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Bach told the athletes at the Closing festivities: "You overcame these divisions showing in this community we are equal.
"The unifying power of the Olympics is stronger than the forces that want to divide us: you give peace a chance," he said.
"May the political leaders around the world be inspired by your example of solidarity and peace."
One of the many video montages during the ceremony concluded with freestyle skiers Oleksandr Abramenko of Ukraine and Russian Ilia Burov embracing on the podium.
The closing ceremony center stage was composed of over 124,000 square feet of HD LED screens imitating "a crystal clear ice surface" throughout the whole ceremony.
As with the opening ceremony, there were no stars, professional singers, dancers, or actors involved. All participants were students from schools or universities, or ordinary citizens from the Beijing and Hebei provinces which hosted the venues.
"We welcome China as a winter sport country"
Bach also called on the international community to "give equal access to [coronavirus] vaccines for everybody around the world".
Zhang Yimou, the renowned Chinese film director, was ceremony director as he was for the opening ceremony and both ceremonies at the 2008 summer Games in Beijing - the only city to have hosted both editions of the Olympics.
"The Olympic spirit could only shine so brightly because the Chinese people set the stage in such an excellent way and in a safe way," said Bach.
"The Olympic villages were outstanding. The venues - magnificent. The organization - extraordinary.
"The positive legacy of these Olympic Games is ensured."
Bach did not say, as is common, that the Games were the "best ever" but that "with the truly exceptional Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 we welcome China as a winter sport country".
Many of the athletes who participated in the Games walked, masked, through the stadium in a ceremony which also included video recaps of the action and a handover to Italy's Milan/Cortina, the next hosts of the Winter Games in 2026.
America-born Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who picked up three medals including two gold, received the biggest cheer among the athletes from the arena only half-filled due to coronavirus restrictions.
A "closed loop" system operated throughout the Games and though a handful of athletes missed events or training through positive tests, there was generally little pandemic-related drama.
There were also medal ceremonies for the final cross-country skiing events with Norwegian Therese Johaug and Alexander Bolshunov of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) both receiving their third golds of the Games.
Yet the US figure skating team went home without their earned silver medal, after their appeal to hold the team event medal ceremony, cancelled because of a positive drug test from an ROC skater, was denied one day earlier.
Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO /Xinhua & UPI Photo