Every two years when the Olympic Games begin, the host nation performs a tribute in an opening ceremony. It celebrates with a lighting of the Olympic flame, musical and dance performances and a peek at some of the sports stars and excitement in store for the upcoming weeks.
Russia has spent seven years preparing for the Winter Olympics. It spent $50 billion on the event’s preparations, which is more money than any previous country had invested.
The opening ceremony kickoff proved indeed that Russia is taking its role as Olympic host seriously. Highlights included elegant ballet dances, masterful classical music and beautifully crafted aerial art. A ballet dance rendering from “War and Peace” was dramatic, illuminated white horses with mechanical gears peaking through luminescent white material pulled a chariot in representing Gogol’s novel “Dead Souls,” expertly crafted multi-colored dancing onion dome balloons inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral were lyrical and enchanting, and a pop performance of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” sung by the Russian Policeman’s choir was a rare display of a nation’s subtle self-mockery that invited the world into its homeland.
The spotlight was on its politics after recent events from allowing Edward Snowden of WikiLeaks to seek asylum there to revoking the U.S. right to adopt Russian children, to its anti-gay propoganda law that prohibits the distribution of gay literature to minors.
Its self-conscious response was an adult pop group performance by the band t.a.T.u. that includes lesbian innuendo in its image.
Western leaders U.S. President Barak Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, France President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to attend the ceremony, which has traditionally been attended by world leaders in support of the games mission of uniting nations through sports. A U.S. President has not been absent from the Olympic Games in more than a decade.
The Fisht Olympic Stadium is at the center of the the Sochi games complex that spans from the Black Sea coast to the Caucasus Mountains.