Russian Through History: The Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Via: Tuned In

Watching the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony could at times feel like going to the party of someone you barely knew. We were guests, but it wasn’t really about us. The ceremony, in a way like this whole Olympics, felt like a story Russia was telling the world, but most of all a story it was telling itself, about a vital, proud, storied country on the rise–and don’t worry too much about those Stalinist-purge and gay-repression things. It began with a Russian girl’s Wonderland trip through the Cyrillic alphabet. (Why are so many Olympic opening ceremonies highly stylized children’s nightmares?) It ended with a highly selective trip through Russian history. On the way it passed troikas of horses, cosmonauts, and War and Peace.┬áThis ceremony was so thoroughly Russian you could keep it in your freezer and pour shots of it. And its version of Russian history, especially in the 20th century, was so smoothed over you could skate on it. While the visually stunning pastiche of Russian history represented the 1917 revolution–a red locomotive amid constructivist art–it skipped over the bloody excesses of Stalinist Russia in favor of a bit of World War II and a whole lot of Soviet ’50s teenyboppers. The turbulent recent history, perestroika, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia’s lurches toward and away from democracy, were summed up by a girl letting go of a red balloon. Of course, it was Vladimir Putin’s show, and it’s no surprise the host country would try to cast itself in an optimistic light. It was up to the broadcasters of NBC to put this fantasia in a frame of reality. That was ostensibly the point, after all, in making the ceremony the only part of the Olympics NBC would not livestream online. (The real reason, more likely, was primetime ratings.) The ceremony, we were told, needed NBC’s journalists to put it in proper context. And often they did. Bob Costas, still suffering from an uncomfortable-looking and uncomfortable-to-look-at case of pinkeye, kicked off the evening interviewing President Obama about relations

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