On our last night in Sochi, members of the U.S. delegation made a point of visiting the USA House -- the central gathering place for our team -- and congratulating our nation’s terrific athletes. They made us proud, and they proved to be excellent ambassadors for our nation in Russia.
Sunday night’s stunning closing ceremony at Fisht Stadium demonstrated that spirit, presenting a spectacle that included tributes to Russian ballet, music, and literature. How many countries in the world would celebrate its great writers at an Olympic ceremony? It was a fitting end to the Sochi games. And the crowd in the stadium appreciated the "inside joke" when one of the Olympic rings was slow in unfolding, mirroring the stubborn ring in the opening ceremony.
Of course, the vitality of the Games was clearest in places like the ski slopes and the Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Sanki Sliding Center. One of the highlights of my career was joining other members of our delegation -- Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns; Tennis Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom; and two celebrated Olympic gold medalists in speed skating, Bonnie Blair and Dr. Eric Heiden -- at competitions, the closing ceremony, and the USA House.
In some ways, diplomacy at its best can emulate the Olympic spirit, striving for the common good. I made a point of visiting our team of U.S. diplomats at the temporary office space where they worked.
I admire the professionalism and dedication of the diplomats and other professionals who worked behind the scenes to make Sochi a success: consular officials who helped Team USA, their family members and the thousands of other American visitors; security experts who looked after their safety; management officials who performed Herculean tasks to keep our operation running smoothly; and public affairs officers engaging in sports diplomacy and working with the media.
My fellow Olympic delegate, five-time gold medal winner Dr. Heiden, once said he admired athletes “who have a strong character and who let their abilities speak for themselves.”
In the Sochi Olympic Games, our Team USA athletes, as well as their competitors from around the globe, have demonstrated that ability and character. Whether they won a medal or not, whether they took home gold, silver or bronze, they have earned our deepest admiration and respect.
About the Author: Ambassador Michael McFaul, who has served as U.S. Ambassdor to Russia since January 2012, will depart Moscow this week and return to Stanford University.