The Olympics, winter and summer, are about transitions, the landscape changing every four years, along with the young faces, though less in this professional era. The setting for the Sochi Games, next to the sea and nestled against the mountains, didnít exist, until launched by the big ambitions of Vladimir Putin.

The past two weeks, the Russian president resisted transitions elsewhere, part of Kiev burning in protest against the Ukrainian leadership Putin supported. Negotiations faltered over the future of Syria, as another Russian comrade, Bashir al-Assad, held grimly to power.

The Olympics are supposed to rise above such power struggles. At their best, and frequently enough, the Sochi Games did. Even on the mountain featuring the alpine skiing, where the weather proved most troublesome, rain, fog and snow all at once in the womenís giant slalom, a favorite story of transition played out.

Ted Ligety, near 30, in his third Olympics, finally grabbed the gold in the giant slalom he long has dominated. In the womenís slalom, Mikaela Shiffrin, age 18, made an enchanting debut, a comfortable half-second faster than her idol, thirtysomething Marlies Schild of Austria.