Russian athletes enjoyed a raucous reception as they returned home from the Beijing Winter Olympics, being greeted at a Moscow airport by hordes of fans before making their way to a city center arena for a celebratory concert.
After a delay of several hours apparently caused by a baggage issue, the last contingent of athletes from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team left Beijing on Monday before touching down at Sheremetyevo Airport in the Russian capital shortly before 19:00 local time.
Aboard ‘The Golden Flight’ were dozens of Russian sporting stars who one day earlier had been at the dazzling closing ceremony in Beijing which brought an end to just over two weeks of action at the Winter Games.
Among them was cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov, a triple gold medalist and five-time medal winner in Beijing, who was seen embracing his wife at the airport. Teenage figure skating stars Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova – who won gold and silver respectively – were also greeted excitedly by the groups of fans in Moscow, with Trusova being reunited with her pet dogs.
From there, the Russian Olympians traveled to a gala concert at the VTB Arena in downtown Moscow, being joined by athletes who had already journeyed back from Beijing. That included 15-year-old figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva, who won gold in the team event before being affected by the ordeal surrounding her doping case.
Having been deprived of their flag and anthem in Beijing due to ongoing sanctions from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Russian athletes were treated to a sea of tricolor-waving supporters inside the VTB Arena and stood for the national anthem as the Russian flag was proudly raised.
Russian athletes left Beijing with a record haul of medals from the Winter Games for their nation, earning 32 in total – which surpassed the 30 won in Sochi in 2014.
The overall ROC tally in Beijing was behind only Norway, whose stars took home 37 medals in total. In gold medals terms, the Russian team was ninth in the table, earning six top podium finishes at the Games.