- Associated Press - Sunday, February 23, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - With a nod to Russia’s Olympic past and 900 children carrying small flames, a giant bear has extinguished the flame of the Sochi Games.

The 26-foot (8-meter) bear shed a single tear down from his left eye after blowing out a cauldron inside Fischt Olympic Stadium, marking the symbolic end of the 17-day games.

The bear’s breath was followed by the giant Olympic torch overlooking the coastal cluster of arenas being extinguished.

It was a relatively quiet moment considering the circumstances - a packed arena and three giant animatronic mascots, with hundreds of children. Soft music was the same that played during the closing ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Games.


For a moment, the crowd treated it as a bittersweet gesture, after showing sadness when International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach declared the games closed.

But the sentiments were brief.

Soon, fireworks exploded over the stadium and athletes poured onto the arena floor to dance in front of a DJ, with screens showing an animated Olympic leopard mascot on the decks. They danced nearly an hour - long after the TV cameras had turned off - with fans pouring onto the arena floor to join them.

The message was clear: Competition’s over, time to celebrate.

- By Oskar Garcia - Twitter http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu