The Winter Olympics finally kicked off at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on Friday, February 7. The event was visually appealing, historical, and seemed to attempt to veer away from politics (for the most part).
Russia’s most popular pop duo, t.a.T.u. returned to close the opening ceremony preshow, a suitable “blast from the past” and nod to Russian pop culture. The organizers of the ceremony took a predominantly intellectual and visually appealing approach to the performances; information was given about the Russian alphabet, we got to watch ballet renditions of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” and dancers performed a modern dance synchronized to Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, “Swan Lake.”
Despite the beautiful and dazzling artistry of the ceremony, it was disappointing to see people still focusing on political messages and tensions. The International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) President, Thomas Bach, delivered a speech that was, without a doubt, directed at Russia’s treatment of homosexual individuals and recent anti-gay laws.
He stated that the Olympics are about “tolerance, not discrimination,” and pleaded politicians to, “have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of these athletes.”
NBC also worked in subtle political messages during their filming of the ceremony, such as when the Ukrainian athletes made their way through the procession during the parade of nations. As the athletes were walking across the stage, the camera quickly turned to President Putin to see if he would react.
The historical lesson given in the ceremony was accurate and well done for the most part, except for the fact that it omitted some of Russia’s darker times, especially the reign of Stalin. They seem to have erased him from their history – or at least this historical account.
Another minor fault with the opening ceremony was the technical mishap involving the appearance of the Olympic rings. They were shaped like snowflakes and gracefully floated down to the stage, except for the fifth and final one.
Instead of opening to form a ring, it remained in the closed, snowflake shape. It was certainly an awkward technical glitch, but luckily the Russian national anthem followed immediately after and salvaged the faux pas. Russian television stations used the time delay to show five fully open rings, making most at home viewers in the country unaware of the mishap.
But, back to the athletics. As of Tuesday, February 11, Norway is in first place in the medal standings with 11 total: 4 gold, 3 silver, and 4 bronze. Canada and the United States follow in second and third place with 9 and 7 medals respectively.
The United States has won two gold medals in snowboarding (slopestyle), one silver in freestyle skating, and four bronze in figure skating, freestyle skating, skiing, and luge.
There are many events to look forward to this week including the biathlon and curling. Some of the air times are early in the morning, but they are worth checking out if you happen to be awake!