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Sochi Winter Olympics: Games dance into the history books with spectacular opening ceremony

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Sochi 2014 opens with a bang

Despite one snowflake's shaky start, Russia puts on an epic opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics, with a history-themed spectacle of light, music and dance.

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It began with an illustrated lecture on the Russian alphabet, featured a flying, singing girl (Sputnikki Webster, anyone?) and it ended with Vladimir Putin’s (alleged) girlfriend helping light the Olympic flame.

Most opening ceremonies feature at least one stuff-up (remember the jammed cauldron in Sydney). In Sochi it was the fifth Olympic ring, which was supposed to join its ring mates after unfurling from a glowing snowflake but instead remained a stubborn asterisk that quite ruined the image.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had a grim look on his face as the snowflake failed to unfurl and hovered next to four open circles.

The 160-odd-minute spectacular featured 3500 fireworks, 3000 performers and took place in the purpose-built, massively expensive Fisht stadium in the coastal Olympic park.

The theme was a history of Russia, from the days of Greek legend, through the industrial revolution – not to mention the actual revolution.

Russia’s celebrated composers were celebrated, there was marching and much dancing by Bolshoi superstars including (naturally) a bit of Swan Lake performed by glowing jellyfish, and there were several hallucinogenic sequences featuring huge inflatable and mechanical devices, most of which worked properly, and some of which weren’t unintentionally terrifying.

Both the symbolism and the inflatable teapots were, for the most part, as impressive as they were impenetrable.

In the grand finale, five torch-bearers beginning with Maria Sharapova passed the Olympic flame around the stadium. They included rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabaeva, widely rumoured to be dating Vladimir Putin, though neither have confirmed the relationship.

The final cauldron was lit by figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice hockey player Vladislav Tretyak.

Mid-ceremony, chair of the Sochi Games Dmitry Chernyshenko said the event would inspire a generation, and show the world the best his country was proud of – its hospitality and traditions.

IOC president Thomas Bach said it had been a "remarkable achievement" for Russia to build a new Olympic resort in just seven years, which “took decades in other parts of the world”.

"I am sure you will enjoy the benefits for many years to come," he said.

He also pointedly said that the Olympics showed it was possible to live together “without any kind of discrimination for whatever reason”, in a probably nod to the controversy surrounding an Olympics whose lead-up has heavily featured debate over Russia’s anti-gay laws.

However he pleaded for political leaders to address their disagreements directly "and not on the back of these athletes".

Speaking of which, an unintentionally ironic pre-show included a song by Queen, and faux-lesbians Tatu holding hands and singing surrounded by volunteers in rainbow-coloured uniforms. Just before the show, a video message from Ban Ki-moon called gave a reminder that Olympic principles include 'human rights'.

Earlier, creative director Konstantin Ernst admitted a little ruefully that Russia couldn’t match the long history of globally-recognised pop music that made the London’s curtain-raiser such a toe-tapper.

But in a not-so-subtle dig at London’s opinion-dividing NHS sequence, Ernst had promised no part of the ceremony would only make sense to the home audience.

Ernst, the suave director-general of Channel One Russia who headed Russia’s Eurovision creative team and boasts an endearingly native sense of dry humour, told a press conference on Friday he felt a "painful" burden of responsibility to give the world an "artistic, metaphorical and informative" spectacle.

He possibly suffered from a less-than-flattering interpreter when he described the show as "straightforward, pedestrian metaphors".

"We wanted to show the main achievements of Russia," he said. "We definitely have something to boast about in classical music, arts and painting so that will be our main target."

with Bloomberg


It began with an illustrated lecture on the Russian alphabet, featured a flying, singing girl (Sputnikki Webster, anyone?) and it ended with Vladimir Putin’s (alleged) girlfriend helping light the Olympic flame.
One of the rings forming the Olympic Rings fails to open during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

One of the rings forming the Olympic Rings fails to open during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo: Mark Humphrey

13 comments

  • "Stubborn snowflake leaves Putin cold" - what a great heading...it means a lot

    Commenter
    poor russian
    Date and time
    February 08, 2014, 10:56AM
    • The Olympics is becoming a massive joke. 36 billion? I'm sure that money could have gone to help those who are impoverished (let's not forget all the armed forces members who haven't been paid in months). Makes me wonder how much the IOC gets out of it too since it seems to be a well to do members club. Greed never ceases to amaze me.

      Commenter
      zzREXzz
      Date and time
      February 08, 2014, 11:14AM
      • Hmm...the fifth Olympic ring in fact represented America. Accidental? No? ..

        Commenter
        LoveWittyRussians
        Date and time
        February 08, 2014, 11:15AM
        • I'm more concerned about them killing & poisoning the city's stray dog population to make themselves look good, and in place of proper animal welfare controls, than I am about their bloody stupid Olympic rings lighting up properly. That's a transient event of no consequence but caring for the living things about us in a compassionate way says everything about the state of the human soul!

          Commenter
          JJ
          Date and time
          February 08, 2014, 12:57PM
          • A hugely disrespectful article with a bitchiness more suited to Eurovision. The opening was wonderful and just like Sydney the focus should be on all the hard working people who made it happen with an emphasis on what did work not so much on what didn't.

            Commenter
            Peter
            Date and time
            February 08, 2014, 1:43PM
            • I agree. Despite a few hiccups it was pretty amazing.

              Commenter
              Sandy Dee
              Date and time
              February 08, 2014, 3:44PM
            • Absolutely! Thanks to Channel Ten for their unbiased and positive coverage of this spectacular ceremony.

              Commenter
              Andy
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              February 08, 2014, 5:07PM
          • Hmm, Andrew Webster's article was far more informative and balanced than this one. I'm glad I read Andrew's article first so I wasn't left with a bitter taste about SMH's coverage of Sochi 2014. All the best to our Aussie Olympians!

            Commenter
            Gizza
            Location
            St. Ives
            Date and time
            February 08, 2014, 4:45PM
            • How dare you be so mean spirited. Of all the thousands of fabulous images you could have included in your article, you chose the only detectable slip. Can you not allow Russia credit for doing whatever it took to produce this truly spectacular event?
              This stunningly beautiful ceremony was probably the best of its type ever produced. It was certainly the most technically complex.
              The team producing it are considered to be the best in the world, and are from al over the world, including hugely talented and hard working Australians. They have done an excellent job.
              I loved the ceremony, as did all I have spoken to. Let's celebrate Russia's efforts to host this games.
              Thus far the Australian media have sought to criticise any aspect they can of Russia's facilities and preparations, and the cost incurred. Now you criticise this beautiful and 99.9999999% perfect ceremony.
              Disgusting.

              Commenter
              Really
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              February 08, 2014, 6:32PM
              • Looks spectacular. Pity Ten's advertising was so bad the live 2am coverage was unknown and unseen. Will we see it all saturday night? I hope so....but not live as advertised. Full marks for trying, just think carefully and be honest.

                Commenter
                TONY
                Date and time
                February 08, 2014, 6:48PM

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