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Putin Opens Winter Olympics in Sochi

Published: February 8, 2014 (Issue # 1796)



  • Sochi games' lavish opening ceremony gets under way.
    Photo: Vitaly Beloussov / RIA Novosti

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
    Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti

Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Friday after a lavish opening ceremony showcasing Russia as a resurgent nation.

I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games officially open, Putin said, raising the curtain on an Olympic Games that started as his pet project and has become the crowning moment of his third term as president.

In front of a near-capacity crowd at the 40,000-seat Fisht Olympic Stadium and millions of TV viewers worldwide, the opening show drew on Russias rich musical and literary heritage, with a few nods to its Soviet past.

Tonight we are writing a new page in Olympic history. These are the first-ever Olympic Games in the new Russia, said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. The German former fencer, 60, is overseeing his first Games since replacing Jacques Rogge at the helm of the IOC in September.

The Russians desire for their own winter sport resort was so great because of their passion for sports on snow and ice. What took decades in other parts of the world has been achieved here in just seven years. That is a remarkable achievement.

Bach called on athletes to live together with harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason, after an Olympic buildup marred by disputes over Russian laws banning promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships to children.

With a total cost of $51 billion, the Sochi Olympics are on course to be the most expensive in history by some measures, although that includes infrastructure not directly used for the Games and Russian officials say only $6.4 billion of directly competition-related costs should count.

Putin was the key figure in securing the right to hold the Games in 2007, giving a rare English-language speech to IOC delegates in Guatemala before Sochi was chosen.

Russian high culture was prominent in the ceremony, with allusions to the novel "War and Peace" and artist Wassily Kandinsky, while the Olympic hymn was sung by world-renowned opera singer Anna Netrebko.

Patriotism was a frequent theme, with the Russian national anthem played in its full form, lasting several minutes, as color-coded performers formed the countrys flag while red, white and blue lights beamed national colors around the arena.

The show began with a run through the Cyrillic alphabet, and there were also cameos from a choir of Orthodox monks and a squad of cosmonauts.

The countrys awkward relationship with its Soviet past was dealt with in a segment where Communist symbols including Stalin-era skyscrapers and a 50-foot-high hammer and sickle merged with jazz and other elements of what would once have been considered subversive culture.

The Olympic cauldron was to be lit by two heroes of Soviet sport, figure skater Irina Rodnina and hockey goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, each of them with three Olympic gold medals to their name. The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, was one of the bearers of the Olympic flag.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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