And So It Begins, A Review of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Opening

 

From Vancouver, to Sochi, the Winter Olympics were officially opened midday, eastern time. The opening ceremonies included an incredible array of beautiful imagery, and plenty of danger. A truly great beginning to the Winter Games.

First things first, I watched the Olympic opening two times…well…kind of three. The first was when I watched a Russian livestream of the ceremonies and missed the beginning and end bits.  Then, I had to suffer through endless commercials and NBC’s–still hasn’t improved–commentary. And finally I rewatched bits and pieces of it in Russian to really get a feel for what the Russian audience felt and saw compared to the American.

Here’s what I got. The entire ceremony, or the theatrical aspects of it, were told as if it were a dream as seen through the eyes of a

People who were part of the Russian flag

little fifth grade girl who is not only brave, but can sing too. The beginning sequence, going through the Russian alphabet gave me a great feeling of pride and love. Hey, I’m from there, give me a break.

The singing of the Soviet….r…Russian National Anthem was well done, no only by the choire, but the Russian flag being shown as several rows of people in different colors moving (seen left) looked absolutely spectacular.

The parade of nations was done incredibly well, the stage itself being a giant projection was a brilliant idea, and I loved seeing the lit globe as each country made their way out from beneath the stage. Most of the uniforms worn by the teams were pretty good with a few exceptions. Whoever thought it was a good idea to wear winter jackets, maroon shorts and flip flops needs to be fired immediately.   I will admit I was pleasantly surprised to see the Israeli team looking much larger than usually expected at the Winter Olympics. They had ten athletes this year with additional coaches. Out of the rest of the Middle East the only other nations I remember seeing there were Iran, (who followed Israel out) and Lebanon.

The United States (seen right) looked incredibly well dressed and well received. The combination of the white pants and the blue and red details on their sweaters as well as the stars encompassed the American flag in a tasteful and wonderful manner. And if it wasn’t obvious which country they were from before, the left side of their chest has an American flag above the Olympic flag, and the right side says USA.  These guys want you to know that the US is here and they mean to win.

Russian Olympic Team Women

 

 

Surprises came all around, one of my favorites being that the Russian Olympic team walked out in great coats, particularly the multi colored women’s, but also that their parade music was t.a.t.u’s Not Gonna Get Us, my favorite song from the group.  Other pleasantries for me included the array of recognizable and singable music that I proudly sang along to and that Thailand had the brilliant violinist Vanessa Mae on their team.

Moving on from fame and fashion lets talk about the show itself. WOW! An incredible amount of ingenuity went into this show, from the troika, to a train being wheeled down through wires hanging 80 or something feet in the air. Remember that little girl? Well she flew, held up by wires, all around. Not many adults will agree to that.

There was a mixing of circus elements as well as ballet. Its Russia, gotta have the ballet. There was a lovely olive branch dancing to Swan Lake, and a scene from the Ballet version of War and Peace. There were great scenes of tribute to Peter the Great, who westernized the country, great tribute to the city he built, St. Petersberg and of course a not to subtle tribute to the “glory” of the USSR.

Despite a mishap with the initial appearance of the Olympic ring, in which one snowflake failed to expand into a ring, it was an incredible opening with not one, not two, but three mascots (at right). The way they moved and their eyes, it felt as if I was watching a a 3-D rendering on my TV/computer screen.

I suppose all the controversy demanded that Russia put on a show so great everyone would be too amazed to criticize. While that’s not really true the show was a great kick off, with much more amusing Russian commentary than NBC.

There was just too much to talk about, from light shows, to history, to incredible dancing, and a musical performance by the incredibly talented Anna Netrebko (seen below with choir). All I can say is that this opening made me really pumped for the Olympics.

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