Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

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

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)

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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