Games come to a close
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) — The Winter Olympics ended on Sunday with host nation Russia on top of the medals table and Canada winning the men’s ice hockey final, but news that two more athletes tested positive for banned substances dimmed the golden glow.
Canada claimed the last, most coveted title of the Games by sweeping aside Sweden 3-0 to retain their men’s ice hockey crown, but two more victories for Russia gave them an unassailable lead with 13 golds to Norway’s 11.
Sweden’s misery was compounded by news that forward Nicklas Backstrom had failed a doping test.
Team officials were furious at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because they were only told two hours before the game. The team doctor said the stimulant was contained in a pill the athlete had taken for many years to treat a sinus condition.
“That was one of the worst games we’ve ever seen, not because of the outcome and the way the team played, but because Nicklas couldn’t compete in the game,” said Swedish team manager Tommy Boustedt.
“This is one of the toughest days for me and Swedish hockey, and all because of the IOC.”
One top Swedish official accused the IOC of putting politics ahead of sport and jeopardizing the future participation of National Hockey League players at the Olympics.
On a happier note, at the Sanki Sliding Centre, Alexander Zubkov added the four-man bobsleigh crown to his two-man title, while in the cross-country, Alexander Legkov grabbed the 50 km race in a Russian medals sweep.
Those wins ensured Russia was the most successful nation at the Games, emulating the Canadians who topped the rankings on home turf four years earlier.
“People kept asking me whether I believed Russia could do as well as Canada did in Vancouver ... and I didn’t believe it,” 30-year-old Legkov said.
“Now this is our pride, it’s wonderful. What could be better than ending the Olympics with a gold medal and helping Russia top the medal table?”
Underlining the sense of national pride, a packed Fisht Stadium erupted in cheers as the Russian team marched past during the athletes’ parade at the closing ceremony.
Organizers will be delighted that athletic achievement has gone hand-in-hand with a generally well-run Games, so far untouched by violence at the hands of Islamist militants opposed to President Vladimir Putin and his pet project.
Voices of dissent over Russia’s human rights record, particularly regarding legislation that critics say discriminates against gays, have occasionally crashed the party, but attention has largely focused on sport.