Most of the Stars Align in Sochi, but Not All
By: Jack Ruble
Although it happened hours before we saw it on NBC, the opening ceremony for the Sochi games proved to be memorable. After several weeks of build up for these games, featuring increasing attention from the Western media about the accommodations, the geo-political implications, the condition of stray animals, and Russian views on homosexuality, the opening ceremony attempted to highlight the grandeur of the games.
Despite having some of the first few qualifying events on Thursday Feb. 6, the opening ceremonies began the next day. The presentation was described by Olympic commentators such as Bob Costas as “More Beijing than Torino.” The Beijing opening ceremony in 2008 was seen by many to be China’s elaborate introduction onto the world stage. Torino, host city of the 2006 Winter Olympics, was seen as a more low-key event in an already well established ski resort area.
Sochi’s introduction proved to have moments of spectacular displays of a “New Russia” as well as clear indicators of the lingering of the past. Much like most other Olympic openings, Sochi featured large firework presentations, decorative demonstrations of the countries past, and of course the walking of the athletes. During the firework presentation, a massive Olympic ring symbol was to open up from five small circles above the arena. However, all of the circles but one opened up to form the Olympic rings, showing to the world one of the fears that many of the journalists who have been in Sochi for weeks have had: that Russia might not be ready to start the Olympics.
Although the slight snafu highlighted Russian unpreparedness to some, other parts of the ceremony put Russia on the world stage in a positive light. Having the participating nations walk out in Cyrillic alphabetical order instead of English alphabetical order helped to open the eyes of many to Russian culture and promote the wider global community these games represent. This, along with the multiple videos of Russia’s past, showed many in the world who are unfamiliar with the majority of Russian history how the country came to be the Russia we know today. Despite the obvious positive bias of the videos, it still helped to educate the world on the host country of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Most of the attention surrounding these games has been on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000. After personally lobbying for the games to be in Sochi, and then investing much of his personal wealth to help fund the construction, Putin has a clear interest in the games going well. In the next two weeks the world will see how well Russia is able to put themselves on the world stage.