As a former athlete and Olympics junkie, there are very few sights more moving and powerful than that of an Olympics Opening Ceremony. Watching every athlete walk through the stadium together, flags flying high in the most beautiful display of patriotism and unity gives me chills. This year’s ceremony was no different.
Since the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, each host country goes to extremes to put on an incredibly exciting, meaningful and memorable opening ceremony.
These Olympics opening ceremony took place yesterday, February 7 at 8 p.m. Sochi time (11 a.m E.S.T) in Fisht Stadium. Viewers could stream the ceremony live on the internet but most chose to watch the official broadcast on NBC in primetime.
Russia had 232 athletes walk in the ceremony, just beating out USA with 230 as the most prominent country at the Games. Canada made a huge showing as usual with 220 athletes competing in Sochi. Other countries with a sizable athlete representation were Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, and a few other Nordic countries.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin personally lobbied the International Olympic Committee to bring the Games to Russia, these Olympics have been dubbed the “Putin Games.” And from the opening ceremony, it is certainly clear why.
Officials will not comment on the cost of the opening ceremony but the lump sum of the Sochi games is over $50 billion. To put that in perspective, the 2012 London Olympics cost $13.9 billion total and their opening ceremony cost was around $43 million.
Everyone had extremely high expectations and insiders themselves were calling the production ambitious and for the most part, they pulled it off. Despite one technical hitch in the beginning of the ceremony – 5 Russian stars were all transforming into the symbolic Olympic rings…but one star just didn’t want to cooperate – the show was a technical marvel and captivated the audience.
The show’s main objective was to give people a sense of Russian history and culture, beginning with the settlers who discovered the land which eventually brought on the inevitable period of industrialization during the Soviet Revolution.
A huge portion of the ceremony was dedicated to Russian literature and ballet, featuring allusions to Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Most importantly, however, IOC president Thomas Bach – in his first Olympics as President –urged the public and politicians alike to refrain from putting the burden of diplomacy and their own political agendas on the shoulders of their athletes.
“I say to the political leaders of the world – thank you for supporting your athletes. They are the best ambassadors of your country. 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 backs of the athletes.”
And in the ultimate spirit of the Olympics, Bach gave the following advice to all participants in this year’s winter games:
“Olympic Sport unites people…Yes, it is possible to strive even for the greatest victory with respect for the dignity of your competitors. Yes, Yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible – even as competitors – to listen, to understand and to give an example for a peaceful society.”
Now, we have the next two weeks to see how these athletes live up to that challenge and who brings home gold.