Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 July 2015

Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Confusing and spectacular opening ceremony kicks off games

By Simon Rice

Published 08/02/2014 | 09:00

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Fireworks explode while the Olympic flame is lit during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Olympic torch bearer Maria Sharapova enters the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform Dove of Peace during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform with inflated objects during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: A general view of fireworks over Fisht Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform Moskva/The Dream during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: A dancer performs during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform Moskva/The Dream during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform Moskva/The Dream during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Images are projected in Olympic Gods during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Russian President Vladimir Putin declares the games open during the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by David Goldman - Pool/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Liza Temnikova as Lyubov performs Moskva/The Dream during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (L) and Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee President and CEO Dmitriy Chernyshenko (C) shake hands during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Conor Lyne of Ireland carries his country flag as the Irish team arrives during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: A general view of atmosphere during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancer Ivan Vasilyev performs during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: The Switzerland Olympic team enjoys the atmosphere during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Liza Temnikova as Lyubov performs during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (3rd L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (4th L) and Claudia Bach (L) attend the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Figure skater Madison Chock enters the stadium with the United States Olympic team during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Liza Temnikova as Lyubov performs Rites of Spring during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: A general view of atmosphere during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Large helium inflatables create the elements of St. Basil's Cathedral is during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Olympic mascots the Hare, the Polar Bear and the Leopard wave during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Russian President Vladimir Putin waits in the presidential lounge to be introduced at the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics as a television screen displays snowflakes transforming into four Olympic rings with one failing to form at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by David Goldman - Pool/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: A general view of atmosphere during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Bobsleigh racer Alexander Zubkov of the Russia Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands wave orange scarves during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Short track speed skater Jon Eley of the Great Britain Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Snowflakes hover above performers of Voices of Russia during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Athlete marshals light up to form a Russian flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Spectators pose as they arrive for the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Characters perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )
Characters perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )
The Olympic rings form, with one failing to open, during the Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Athletes watch the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
An artist performs during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi acted as a reminder that these curtain raisers are rather daft, unless you can fathom what's going on.

When London hosted the summer Games two years ago, against many expectations choreographer Danny Boyle managed to put on a show to be proud of which celebrated the best of British - from its comedy via Rowan Atkinson, to the National Health Service and our industrial history. Even James Bond and the Queen made an appearance.

 

We all loved it and were patting ourselves on the back with our ability to put on such an emotive and spectacular show.

 

Yet the messages may have been lost in translation.

 

Despite a belief in many quarters of these isles that Britain is among the big boys on the world stage, most people around the globe were probably wondering what the hell NHS stood for. And why was some bloke with funny eyebrows having problems playing the piano?

 

As Russia opened the Winter Games in Sochi it was not always easy to follow.

 

Starting with an 'A to Z' of Russia's contributions to the world, things got confusing considering Russia has a different alphabet. For a start there are 33 'letters'. And there is no J.  One can only wonder how Russian commentators got around that one during the 2012 opening ceremony when they were explaining what James Bond was doing in Buckingham Palace.

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After that it was time for that opening ceremony staple - a cute kid. As sweet as the little girl looked, she'll never rival Beijing's teeny-tot. It emerged soon after that particular ceremony that she was lip-syncing. The girl with the best voice was apparently deemed too ugly by organisers.

 

There was an alternative early talking point though. When the fifth of five giant rings failed to light up due to what appeared to be a technical fault, users of Twitter had their first mishap to gloat about.

One thing that was easy for the worldwide audience to share in was the tedium of the various teams entering the stadium. It's really incomprehensible that Olympic organisers persist with this. It just goes on and on. There are countries there that most people have never heard of. And why they have to emerge to repetitive euro pop is anyone's guess. Possibly the only people that enjoy this part of opening ceremonies (aside from the manically grinning athletes taking selfie of themselves) are whoever sells those little flags. Thankfully, thanks to the lack of snow in many countries (although that doesn't stop a lot of them - looking at you Jamaica) at least there are less countries than at the summer Games.

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Thankfully it did end. But things quickly became confusing again. For some reason there were some giant horses being chased by what appeared to be a giant orange biscuit.

 

There was a big inflatable bull. And an inflatable teapot. And an inflatable cathedral. And then they all floated up into the air.

 

There was also a massive bear and at one stage the floor of the Fisht Stadium turned into a black and white depiction of the sea, complete with guys dressed as pirates.

 

The choreographer touched on Russia's difficult history in what appeared a sensitive and clever way - the sound of bombers during the World War Two section was easier to understand than any language or dance routine

 

Meanwhile on the 'humour' front, that bit was left to some old cars and three wheeler vehicles zipping through the stadium. That's right.

 

After some speeches it was the bit that provides some genuine intrigue - how would the cauldron be lit? For all the interest, it was pretty disappointing. Figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak lit it together in what an unimaginative domino of flames up to the cauldron itself.

 

And then is was over. At times genuinely spectacular, others utterly confusing. Russians probably loved it. But then they probably got it.

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