A $50 billion (£30 billion) pet project designed purely to allow President Vladimir Putin to show off modern Russia's might.
Certainly the price tag was enormous, there can be no argument about that. And Putin did successfully use the Games to showcase feats of engineering and architecture; building an entire resort from the ground up.
On a personal level, Russia's leader revealed a different side, launching a charm offensive by visiting the United States team at USA House, drinking a glass of red wine with American officials.
IOC bans 11 Russian winter athletes for life for Sochi 2014 doping
Security, a hot topic before the Games, was sure-handed but softly, softly; and athletes and visitors showered the Games with praise.
There were a handful of protests -- most notably by all-women protest group Pussy Riot which ended in a scuffle in which Cossacks struck out with whips -- but overall relatively few dissenting voices despite the widespread criticism of costs, human rights and corruption claims in the buildup.
A Ukrainian athlete pulled out in protest at her president's handling of protests in Kiev, and when the women's biathletes won relay gold there was raw emotion - brief, yet uncomfortable reminders of the role neighbouring Russia had played in a crisis that claimed 82 lives as the Games went on.
On balance the Sochi Games proved to be an effective, if stupendously expensive, advertisement for Putin's Russia.
It certainly helped that Russia topped the medal standings, whatever way you looked at it, by golds or by total medals.
"The friendly faces, the warm Sochi sun and the glare of the Olympic gold have broken the ice of scepticism towards the new Russia," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told reporters.
"The Games have turned our country, its culture and the people into something that is a lot closer and more appealing and understandable for the rest of the world."
But for 17 days in this Black Sea resort the Games have been so much more than a PR ploy.
Staffed by an unmistakeable army of volunteers dressed in psychedelic, multi-coloured clothing created by Russian design house Bosco, Sochi2014 has been a kaleidoscope of sport - a fortnight of jumps and trails, and of puppy-dog tales.
It was a glimpse of an exciting new Olympics, one designed to appeal to a younger generation with new, edgy disciplines, fuelled by pop music and adrenaline.
Initial gripes and media-fuelled criticism focused on unready hotel rooms - social media hummed with pictures of shoddy workmanship, and "double toilets" - soon gave way to stories of sporting endeavour.
Thousands of stray Sochi puppies and dogs got a reprieve after animal rights activists highlighted a Sochi company's claim that it had been hired to round up the canines before the Games began. A shelter was set up for them, and athletes and journalists signed up to adopt the strays and bring them home with them after the Games.
"I've been a dog-lover my whole life, and to find just the cutest family of strays ever here at the Olympics was just a fairytale way to have it go down," U.S. slopestyle silver medallist Gus Kenworthy told reporters, revealing his plan to take them back to Colorado.
New stars were born on the snow and ice, while others disappeared in a smudge of tears. South Korea's figure skating queen Kim Yuna was denied what had looked like being back-to-back golds in the women's individual event following her peerless skate at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The judges disagreed and Russia celebrated a new darling in its first individual women's champion -- Adelina Sotnikova.
Most were left scratching their heads, while Kim was left crying in the corridors. Four-times world champion Kurt Browning put it bluntly.
"I just don't get it," he said. "Yuna Kim outskated her, full stop. I'm shocked." So was Korea, and almost 2 million fans who signed up to a petition to have the scoring scrutinized.
A scoring controversy in figure skating is nothing new, but some extreme sports at the Games are, and Sochi saw the introduction of brand new disciplines at the Extreme Park.
In fact the Park proved so extreme that the world's most famous snowboarder Shaun White elected to withdraw from one event over fears about course safety.
While White was mocked by some for his cautious move, there were sickening reminders of the dangers of extreme sports, none more so than the training accident suffered by Russian freestyle skier Maria Komissarova, who fractured a vertebra and dislocated her spine during practice.
She underwent a six-and-a-half hour operation in Rosa Khutor, and another in a German clinic where she remains, rehabilitating.
On the ice, Russia's quarter-final loss to Finland in the men's ice hockey took the air out of what would have been a defining event of the Games had they progressed. Canada beat the United States in a flat semi-final and went on the win the gold. The United States flopped in the bronze medal game, losing 5-0 to the Finns.
The women's final, in contrast, was a sensational affair, with Canada again beating the United States with a comeback overtime win for a fourth successive gold.
"I don't know, maybe it was the hockey gods," said Canada's Brianne Jenner.
In another milestone moment, Germany's Carina Vogt flew 104.5 metres through the air to win the first women's Olympic ski jumping competition, the 22-year-old's flight to gold marking the end of a 13-year fight by female athletes to be allowed to take part.
There was another first in one of the Olympics' blue riband events on the slopes. After a daredevil descent down Rosa Khutor's downhill run, Slovenia's Tina Maze and Swiss Dominique Gisin could not be separated, both clocking one minute 41.57 seconds to share gold - the first time an Olympic skiing race had seen joint winners.
"It's better to be two on top than one to be 1/100th behind. Two happy faces," Maze said.
America's Mikaela Shiffrin, still only 18, became the youngest ever Olympic slalom champion, while compatriot triple world champion Ted Ligety stormed the giant slalom to become the first American to win two men's Alpine golds.
Forty-year-old Ole Einar Bjoerndalen beat the odds to set a record of 13 Winter Games medals by winning the biathlon sprint and the mixed relay. Martin Fourcade of France, with two golds and one silver, was the most decorated man and Darya Domracheva, with three titles, was the most successful woman.
The prize for endurance must surely go to Noriaki Kasai. At 41 the Japanese pulled on his lycra and propelled himself into the skies to win silver in the individual large hill.
He had won silver in the team event in Lillehammer in 1994 and had been to every Olympics since in a fruitless bid to win another Olympic medal.
Britain won its first ever Olympic medal on snow when Jenny Jones, at 33 the oldest snowboarder in the slopestyle competition, took bronze. The previous 22 British medal winners had all competed on ice.
The Adler Arena was painted Orange as the Dutch dominated long-track speed-skating while the U.S. team fell apart, winning no medals. The Americans mostly blamed their dismal performance on their high-tech suits and on "slow ice".
Netherlands took eight golds out of a possible 12 in Sochi. It included four medal sweeps in the 10 individual events in a show of power not seen in any sport at a Winter Olympics before. The Soviet Union won six golds in the sport at the 1960 Games, while South Korea matched the half dozen in short-track at the 2006 Turin Games.
In short-track here Viktor Ahn won three gold medals to trigger wild celebrations in his adopted Russia - and heap yet more agony on his native South Koreans.
Ahn, who swapped Korea for Russia after the Koreans failed to select him for the 2010 Vancouver Games, confirmed his place among the greatest Winter Olympians of all time when he won the 1,000 metres, the 500m and helped help Russia win the 5,000m relay.
He now has six Olympic gold medals in total - more than any speed skater either in short-track or the more traditional long course. "This has been the best experience of my sporting career and I will never forget Sochi," Ahn told reporters, while Korean President Park Geun-hye launched an inquiry into how they could have let him go.
Korea will hope to have their house in order by the time they host the next 2018 Games. Until then Russia will enjoy basking in the glow of 13 golds, 11 silvers and nine bronze medals from hosting its first Winter Games.
IOC bans three more Russian athletes for life over doping
IOC bans three Russian bobsledders for life over doping