BEIJING — The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics – which had its share of triumph and controversy – come to a close Sunday.
The Games are still reeling after 15-year-old Russian Kamila Valieva was allowed to compete in the women’s figure skating event, despite a positive drug test for a banned substance.
Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor will have a chance to wave the American flag at the closing ceremony after missing the opening ceremony due to COVID. Meyers Taylor will leave Beijing with a silver medal in the monobob and a bronze in the two-man bobsleigh.
After conclusion of the Games, the Winter Olympic torch will eventually make its way to Italy, where Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo are set to share hosting duties in 2026.
(Looking for a recap of Sunday’s action? We have you covered.)
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TEAM USA MEDAL COUNT:Every medal won by the US at Beijing Games
Before the closing ceremony gets underway (7 a.m. ET), here’s quick recap of the major Team USA highlights that occurred while you were sleeping:
In his closing address, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach nodded the challenges of these Games while congratulating the athletes and thanking the organizers.
These Olympics were the second during the coronavirus pandemic and included strict countermeasures consistent with China’s zero-COVID policy, including daily testing, masking and frequent sanitization.
“If we want to finally overcome this pandemic, we must be fast, we must aim higher, we must be stronger, we must stand together. In this Olympic spirit of solidarity, we call on the international community: give equal access to vaccines to everybody around the world,” Bach said.
“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.”
Bach thanked local organizers, public authorities and volunteers for their work organizing and hosting the Games. He also repeated organizers’ oft-cited statistic that China now has 300 million people participating in winter sports.
“This unforgettable experience was only possible because of our gracious hosts, the Chinese people,” Bach said. “With the truly exceptional Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, we welcome China as a winter sports country.”
With that, he declared the Beijing Games closed.
— Rachel Axon
Like they did in 2008, the Olympic rose in the center of National Stadium and flag bearers congregated toward the middle of the stage.
The snowflake was lowered to signify Beijing as a two-time Olympics host.
Afterward, the extinguishing of the Olympic flame (not the first time it’s gone out during these Games) triggered the Olympic flags to light up.
A 90-second fireworks show followed.
— Chris Bumbaca
The flags raised over the closing ceremony flapped in the wind. Or at least it looked that way.
Mechanical blowers kept the flags aloft, just as they had for the opening ceremony more than two weeks ago.
Though the flags might seem to be blowing in the breeze, the sound hear during quiet moments in the ceremony gave away the rouse.
— Rachel Axon
In traditional Olympic fashion, the Olympic flag is taken down and handed over from the host city to the welcoming city. The mayor of Beijing, Chen Jining, passed the flag to IOC president Thomas Bach, who then passed it to the mayors of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Italian national anthem then played.
— Chris Bumbaca
Jessie Diggins received the United States’ 25th medal of the Games on the grand stage.
Diggins danced with her silver on the podium constructed inside of National Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest,” in front of a much larger crowd than most medal ceremonies that took place in Beijing. She took second place in the women’s 30-kilometer mass start.
The U.S. finished fifth in the final medal count, behind Norway, Russia, Germany and Canada. Norway had twice as many golds as the United States with 16.
— Chris Bumbaca
Few athletes have had worse luck at the Winter Olympics than Vincent Zhou.
After spending the bulk of the Games in isolation, barred from participating in the individual men’s figure skating competition, Zhou wrote on Instagram on Sunday night that he was not allowed to board a bus to the closing ceremony because Beijing 2022 organizers deemed him a “close contact” risk.
“I have tested negative 14 times in a row,” Zhou wrote. “I have antibodies and am not contagious whatsoever. I am 100% healthy and normal. I am double masked and would be walking outdoors with the same people I am about to travel with in a couple hours. Out of everyone marching, I would be the least at risk of transmitting to others.”
Zhou, 21, tested positive for COVID-19 during a routine screening test on Feb. 6, hours after he skated in the team event, helping the U.S. win silver. He was released from quarantine last week and invited to participate in the figure skating gala earlier Sunday.
Like the other eight U.S. skaters who competed in the team event, Zhou will be returning home to the U.S. without his silver medal. The International Olympic Committee declined to award the medals following a positive drug test by Russian skater Kamila Valieva, even surviving a challenge from the U.S. skaters at the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Saturday.
“I wish nothing but the best to everyone else marching tonight,” Zhou wrote on Instagram. “It makes me so happy and proud to know they are out there embodying everything Team USA represents and having the time of their lives.”
— Tom Schad
NBC, the exclusive Olympics rightsholder in the United States, will not be showing the closing ceremony live on its linear, flagship channel.
The event, which began at 7 a.m. ET, aired live on NBC Sports, Peacock and NBCSports.com. Figure skating commentators Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski, and Johnny Weir will host an “enhanced” primetime presentation of the ceremony at 8 p.m. ET, airing on NBC and streaming on Peacock.
The live feed available Friday morning will be via the Olympic Broadcasting Service.
— Chris Bumbaca
Far from the field of play, there’s been a lot of speculation from foreign affairs experts and Russia and Ukraine watchers the world over as to whether Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to launch an invasion of Ukraine timed for the Games’ end, or soon after.
This is not merely empty talk but stems from an informal Putin-invasion-timing precedent.
Russia’s leader has spent three of the last eight Olympic Games either invading a country or coming close to doing so.
Putin sent troops into former Soviet Union republic Georgia, in the Caucasus region on the Black Sea, around the time of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 took place during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
As Russia and China have courted each other’s diplomatic company, there’s been additional speculation that Putin could be holding off on any new assault on Ukraine because he doesn’t want to anger Chinese President Xi Jinping. But like a lot of things when it comes to Putin, a former spy who shares his thinking on these matters with an extremely small circle of advisers, the jury’s out on whether this timing is deliberate or just a coincidence.
— Kim Hjelmgaard
At just 20 years old, Nico Porteous has crammed plenty of Olympic experiences into his young life.
The New Zealand snowboarder first won bronze in the halfpipe four years ago. During these Olympics, he won gold on a windy, frigid day during which he landed the most difficult trick going in the sport now.
On Sunday, he added one more Olympic first – flag bearer.
Porteous was selected to carry New Zealand’s flag for the closing ceremony.
He received the honor just more than 24 hours after he became his country’s first male Winter Olympics gold medalist.
Porteous is one of several Olympians whose success here earned them the honor.
Speedskater Isabelle Weidemann was chosen for the honor for Canada. In her second Olympics, she won gold in the team pursuit, silver in the 5000m and bronze in the 3000m
Norway’s delegation selected Marte Olsbu Roeiseland to carry the flag after she won five medals, three of them gold, in biathlon.
And the U.S. team, fittingly, selected bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor.
Meyers Taylor, 37, came into these Games as a threat to win gold in both the monobob, a new event, and the 2-man competition. But she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving, and she spent six days in isolation.
It impacted her training and her mental health as Meyers Taylor was isolated from her son, Nico, whom she is nursing, and husband, Nicholas. They both tested positive, as well.
Once out of isolation, Meyers Taylor added to her Olympic legacy, which includes two silver medals as a pilot and a bronze as a brakeman in three previous Games.
She earned silver in monobob, behind teammate Kaillie Humphries, and took bronze in 2-man.
While athletes view it as an honor to be chosen, there are fewer to choose from for the closing ceremony. That’s true in any Games, but especially these where they were subject to strict COVID countermeasures – including daily testing – and unable to leave the closed loop.
That meant many athletes left soon after they competed.
More than one-third of the 91 national Olympic committees competing in the Games will have their flags carried by volunteers. Those are almost exclusively from small delegations whose athletes likely already left.
— Rachel Axon
Cross-country skier Jessie Diggins fought to the finish, claiming Team USA’s final Olympic medal of the Beijing Games, a silver in the women’s 30-kilometer event Sunday.
With a fierce wind on the last day of the Games, Diggins finished 1:26.37 behind Therese Johaug of Norway, who claimed her fifth career Olympic medal, and third gold in Beijing. American Rosie Brennan finished sixth.
It was the 25th Olympic medal for the U.S. team in Beijing.
This is the third career medal for Diggins, who cemented her status as the most successful American skier in her sport in Olympic history, now with gold-silver-bronze to her name.
— Roxanna Scott
Mikaela Shiffrin will leave the Beijing Olympics empty-handed.
Shiffrin and the Americans lost to Norway in the bronze-medal matchup of the Alpine team event Sunday. Each country won two races in the final, but Norway won based on the better overall time.
It was yet another unfulfilling ending for the two-time Olympic champion, who had wanted to do the team event so badly she changed her departure from Beijing after high winds pushed the race back a day.
Shiffrin has three medals from her first two Olympic appearances, two golds and a silver, and was expected to contend for several more here. But she only finished two of her individual events, recording Did Not Finishes in the giant slalom, slalom and Alpine combined, her best events.
She finished ninth in the super-G and was 18th in the downhill.
— Nancy Armour
The nine U.S. figure skaters who won silver medals in the team event at the 2022 Winter Olympics felt so strongly about receiving those medals before the end of the Games that they took the matter to court.
But they did not succeed.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced late Saturday night that it rejected the appeal the Americans filed earlier in the day, which would have forced the International Olympic Committee to hold a public medal ceremony for the team event prior to Sunday night’s closing ceremony.
— Tom Schad and Christine Brennan