Olympics inspire smiles and joy

When the 2014 Olympic Winter Games began in Sochi, Russia, we expressed the hope that the games would be remembered for being about people, athletes and their efforts and the way that human beings can relate to one another no matter their nation or politics.

The games that concluded over the weekend were a success at just that.

From the mechanical failure of an Olympic ring to open in the opening ceremonies to the human-produced mimic of that failure during the closing ceremony, the games were fun, filled with the usual drama and countless human stories of the efforts of athletes to improve, compete and be winners, regardless of the medal count.

From the famed Jamaican bobsled team and the one-man team from Nepal to the medals juggernaut from the host Russians, and the first two-man bobsled gold medal for the United States, the games provided inspiration and humanity.

There were young stars rising, such as U.S. teen Mikaela Shiffrin with her skiing gold, and old stars setting, such as Russian bobsled driver Alexander Zubkov. There were stars who won what they felt they had been denied before, such as ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and a Evgeni Plushenko the Russian figure skater who made an improbable comeback from back surgery only to see his back give out and leave him with the question of trying again in four years.

The games fortunately did not devolve into some kind of gay rights protest, despite the best efforts of the Obama administration to couch pre-game talk in those terms and the Russian punk group Pussy Riot to cause a stir. Nor did it turn into the kind of armed camp that would destroy the open nature of bringing the world together for the Olympics to share in the spirit of humanity.

As much as it might pain Americans to admit it, the games were a success and President Vladimir Putin, who carries a lot of Soviet-era baggage, will be wearing them as a feather in his cap.

That should not detract from the efforts of the athletes, nor the smiles on their faces, nor the joy shared by spectators.

Instead, we’d note that both the United States and Russia finished out of the medals in men’s ice hockey, the pre-games favorite for a meeting of the superpowers in sports competition.

But the smiles and joys and victories proceeded for the rest of their teams.