February 7

OLYMPICS COMMENTARY: Opening Ceremony rises above Sochi’s problems

The build-up to the 2014 Games has been frought with criticism and controversy, but the extravaganza to mark the opening of the Winter Olympics put all that in the shade.

By Mark Purdy

San Jose Mercury News

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.(AP Photo/J. David Ake)

In a nice touch compared to previous Opening Ceremonies, organizers here staged the athletes’ march very early in the night—allowing them to see almost the entire show — and allowed them to sit in the stands rather than stand on their feet for two hours. The reviews were positive.

“Words can’t describe what I witnessed live with my own eyes,” said one USA team member, freestyle skier Devin Logan. “It was the coolest experience of my life.”

Also as usual, the loudest and most emotional scene occurred when, per tradition, the home team marched into the stadium last. The noise was deafening. Every Russian in the building had probably wondered at some point, during the travails of assembling the $51 billion worth of venues and infrastructure, whether this moment would really happen.

But it did. And an hour later, the Olympic torch was lit in tandem by two of the nation’s most historically famous winter athletes — former figure skater Irina Rodina and former hockey goalie Vladislav Tretiak.

In the United States, Tretiak is best known as the Soviet Union goalie who was benched halfway through the “Miracle On Ice” game at the 1980 Olympics, won by the USA. But here, Tretiak is celebrated for the three gold medals he won in other Olympics.

He deserved this moment. So did the average Russian citizens who have had to endure the Olympic preparation travails — failure to pay workers, forcible evacuations to clear out Games sites — that were foisted on them by their leaders. Two hours of spectacle doesn’t solve all problems. But it shows you what can happen with some magnificent creativity and . . .you know, diversity.

Um, is Putin still smiling?

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