As the events in Sochi start to become memories, athletes and spectators will gather one final time to celebrate the Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium on Sunday. But with a sensitive political climate in the region, there are also sub-plots outside of athletics to watch for at the closing ceremony. Here’s what to expect:
When and where to watch
The ceremony will be held at 8 p.m. local time, 11 a.m. ET, in the same stadium where the opening ceremony was held. Hockey fans will still be buzzing from the men’s gold-medal game, slated to begin four hours earlier. The ceremony will be broadcast live on CBC.
Who will bear the flag?
For Canada, cases have been made for speed skater Gilmore Junio (whose offer to let teammate Denny Morrison skate in the final in his place was met with accolades when Morrison won silver), gold-medal curling skip Jennifer Jones and bobsleigh gold-medalist Kaillie Humphries. More candidates could emerge over the final weekend of action.
The American flag will be carried by four-time Olympian Julie Chu, who earned a silver medal with the U.S. women’s hockey team.
Russia will try to dazzle with more cultural performances, but South Korea will take a leading role in the ceremony as the next Winter Games host. “World-famous soprano Jo Sumi, jazz vocalist Na Yoon Sun, musician Lee Seung Chul and pianist Yang Bang Eon will sing together at the closing ceremony of [the] Sochi Winter Olympic Games,” Yahoo! Singapore reports. It’s at this time that the Olympic flag will be passed on to Pyeongchang’s organizing committee, in charge of the 2018 Games.
At the opening, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s only words were “I hereby declare open the Games of the Olympiad.” Will he say more at the closing?
The most highly scrutinized speech will be that of the IOC President and the words he uses to describe the games.
- London 2012 was called “happy and glorious” with organizers doing a “superb job.”
- Vancouver 2010 was called “excellent and very friendly”
- Beijing 2008 was “truly exceptional”
- Turin 2006 was “magnificent”
- Athens 2004 was “unforgettable, dream games”
- Salt Lake 2002 was “flawless”
- Before 2002, the games were always called “best ever.”
The gay Games
The United States will send a delegation for the ceremony that includes gay athletes Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow, at a time when Russia’s anti-gay-propaganda laws have been met with opposition around the world.
Security and politics
- Russia is on heightened alert over possible terrorist threats. The date of the ceremony falls on some important anniversaries in Soviet history. According to the Long Island Press, the date of : the establishment of the Soviet army in 1918, and dictator Joseph Stalin’s order to carry out Operation Lentil in 1944. This operation forced the relocation of 500,000 Chechens to Siberia, where thousands of them died. A Putin-ordered security force of 100,000 military, secret police and other police are watching over Sochi, determined to stamp out violence from those who may wish to use the anniversary to make a point.
- The shadow of political unrest in neighbouring Ukraine has been cast over Sochi’s Olympics since the beginning, but with loss of life getting worse some Ukrainian athletes have abandoned the Games in protest. Could there be another show of solidarity during the closing ceremony?