No guns and all glory as Sochi skates past critics

Games' success presents right advertisement of Putin's Russia

For the last seven years critics have lined up to paint the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as a wasteful extravagance. A $50 billion pet project designed purely to allow President Vladimir Putin to show off modern Russia's might.

Certainly the price tag was enormous, there can be no argument about that. And Putin did successfully use the Games to showcase feats of engineering and architecture; building an entire resort from the ground up.

On a personal level, Russia's leader revealed a different side, launching a charm offensive by visiting the United States team at USA House, drinking a glass of red wine with American officials.

Security, a hot topic before the Games, was sure-handed but softly, softly; and athletes and visitors showered the Games with praise. On balance the Sochi Games proved to be an effective, if stupendously expensive, advertisement for Putin's Russia.

It certainly helped that Russia topped the medal standings, whatever way you looked at it, by golds or by total medals. But for 17 days in this Black Sea resort the Games have been so much more than a PR ploy.

Staffed by an unmistakeable army of volunteers dressed in psychedelic, multi-coloured clothing created by Russian design house Bosco, Sochi 2014 has been a kaleidoscope of sport - a fortnight of jumps and trails, and of puppy-dog tales.

It was a glimpse of an exciting new Olympics, one designed to appeal to a younger generation with new, edgy disciplines, fuelled by pop music and adrenaline.

Birth of new stars

New stars were born on the snow and ice, while others disappeared in a smudge of tears. South Korea's figure skating queen Kim Yuna was denied what had looked like being back-to-back golds in the women's individual event following her peerless skate at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

The judges disagreed and Russia celebrated a new darling in its first individual women's champion -- Adelina Sotnikova.

On the ice, Russia's quarter-final loss to Finland in the men's ice hockey took the air out of what would have been a defining event of the Games had they progressed. Canada beat the United States in a flat semifinal and went on the win the gold.

The United States flopped in the bronze medal game, losing 5-0 to the Finns.

There was a first in one of the Olympics' blue riband events on the slopes. After a daredevil descent down Rosa Khutor's downhill run, Slovenia's Tina Maze and Swiss Dominique Gisin could not be separated, both clocking one minute 41.57 seconds to share gold - the first time an Olympic skiing race had seen joint winners.

America's Mikaela Shiffrin, still only 18, became the youngest ever Olympic slalom champion, while compatriot triple world champion Ted Ligety stormed the giant slalom to become the first American to win two men's Alpine golds.

Forty-year-old Ole Einar Bjoerndalen beat the odds to set a record of 13 Winter Games medals by winning the biathlon sprint and the mixed relay.

Martin Fourcade of France, with two golds and one silver, was the most decorated man and Darya Domracheva, with three titles, was the most successful woman.

The prize for endurance must surely go to Noriaki Kasai. At 41 the Japanese pulled on his lycra and propelled himself into the skies to win silver in the individual large hill. He had won silver in the team event in Lillehammer in 1994 and had been to every Olympics since in a fruitless bid to win another Olympic medal.

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