Sochi: A Tale of Two Russias

The 2014 Winter Olympics got their kick off in Sochi last night and don’t worry if you couldn’t watch them for yourself, there is a good chance your Twitter feeds and Facebook walls are cluttered with your friend’s witty recants of the events. But you can’t blame them for the implosion of social media usage – this is a big event – and no one thinks so more than Russia’s own Vladimir Putin.

The Boston Globe said that the Russia presented at tonight’s ceremonies was a Russia bent on global vindication – and they’re right.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/02/07/opening-ceremony-kicks-off-sochi/qAcSTqIGJxrvAolzAhBmwI/story.html – check out their in depth coverage of the events!

All of the stops were pulled out for the festivities as Sochi followed Olympic tradition to present their city to the world stage as hosts of the winter games. And while Russia played along with the presentation of their culture and dramatic fanfare, you couldn’t help but to laugh at the ironic undertones of the event that essentially left out the unpleasant moments of Russian history.

In a short video history of Russia that opened the Ceremony, event planners blatantly left out the struggles that plagued the former monarchial and soviet systems that have governed Russia.

I suppose there was some sad attempt at representing the Soviet infliction of industrial change via a performance that entailed comically large machinery and dancers dressed in black and red unitards- but I would hardly call that historically accurate.

No one was expecting a dramatic interpretation of the Stalin-era gulag system to be played out for us in these Opening Ceremonies, but for it to be breezed over completely seems hard to believe.

Let’s give President Putin the benefit of the doubt for a minute. Let’s give him his chance to bring Russia back to the world stage. As the New York Times put it, “the ceremony was, in many respects, the introduction to the world of a re-created Russia, one far different from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that hosted the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980.”

This is the first time the Olympic Games have graced Russian and not Soviet soil, and that is a big deal. This is Putin’s chance to separate his Russia from it’s Soviet stigma. Certainly historians will cringe at every ignorance of Soviet tragedy, but if Vladimir wants to show to the world Russia’s classical ballet and flying horses, then so be it.

But Russia couldn’t completely leave all of it’s stereotypes behind in the unveiling of the 2014 Olympic Games (which happen to be the most expensive in history). In a failed attempt of large snowflakes turning into the Olympic rings, the fifth ring failed to expand and viewers were left with an image reminiscent of Soviet backwardness.

If you couldn’t see the irony in Friday night’s events, there is no doubt that you could see that the next 16 days and nights of Sochi’s Olympic coverage will be worth watching.

Keep tabs on the Winter Games through NBC’s Olympic site: http://www.nbcolympics.com

 

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