Even before the Sochi Olympics kicked off, the games had been marred by issues involving hotel accommodations, stray dogs, undrinkable water and LGBT rights. The trend continued Friday when the Opening Ceremony also hit a snag.
During the beginning of the ceremony, five brightly lit giant snowflakes at Fisht Olympic Stadium were suspended from the ceiling. Each expanded to represent one of the five Olympic rings ... all but one that is. The upper righthand snowflake failed to open, causing quite a stir on social media. (There's already a shirt!) Reportedly, State TV in Russia cut to rehearsal footage in order for the full rings spectacle would be complete, but viewers in America got the un-doctored version.
Although the Sochi winter games faced criticism over Russian President Vladimir Putin's strict anti-gay laws, no demonstration against those laws were apparent in the Opening Ceremony that was broadcast. Even though the German athletes wore rainbow uniforms during the Parade of Nations portion, NBC's Meredith Vieira commented that their uniforms were not meant as a statement. And as for those rainbow gloves people assumed were also a jab, it turns out that they're the official Olympic gloves that feature multi-colored fingers to represent the Olympics rings.
But it was surprising that pop duo t.A.T.u., known for their pseudo-lesbian act, performed during the pre-show, which was not broadcast internationally. Instead, as the Russian athletes entered the stadium, a recording of the duo's 2003 hit "Not Gonna Get Us" was played. The group, made up of Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova, rose to fame posing as a lesbian couple, notoriously sharing a steamy kiss at the 2003 Video Music Awards — which certainly wouldn't fly under Russia's new laws.
Later, Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, called on the world's leaders not to politicize the games, though he didn't specifically reference the LGBT rights issues. "Olympic games are a sports festival embracing human diversity and great unity," he said in remarks preceding Putin officially opening the games. "Please respect their Olympic message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence, and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct, political dialogue and not on the back of these athletes."
The Parade of Nations also threw audiences for a loop. Usually, countries come out in alphabetical order, but Russia's Cyrillic alphabet is very different, meaning Zimbabwe followed immediately after Dominica, while Macedonia came before Great Britain. Unfortunately, the colossal animatronic versions of the Sochi mascots — Bear, Hare and Leopard — introduced at the end of the ceremony were not included in the U.S. broadcast.
Still, the spirit of Russia shined throughout the ceremony, which was told through a series of dreams following a young girl as she floated through parts of Russia's sprawling land — including a circus-like recreation of St. Basil's Cathedral — and history, as various tableaux told the story of Peter the Great founding St. Petersburg, imperialism and the Russian revolution. They also celebrated the best of Russia, recreating portions from Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, showing off Russian ballet and focusing on the country's achievements with its space program and Soviet sports.
Finally, the ceremony paid tribute to all the "Olympic Gods," Russia's greatest Olympic athletes, with a light show that featured the different sports of the winter games. The Olympic torch was then brought in by Russian pro tennis player Maria Sharapova before finally ending up at the cauldron in the hands of former Russian Olympic athletes Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak.
What did you think of the Olympic opening ceremony?