Friday, February 28, 2014

MTVP Sochi 2014 Olympics Coverage: Closing Ceremony

The Sochi closing ceremony didn’t really stick with me the way some other closing ceremonies have. I didn’t have a feeling of sadness that the two week adventure was over. Part of that might be because I was out of town for much of the last few days of the Olympics, so I kind of pulled myself out of that world early. It also didn’t help that USA men’s hockey kind of imploded. The US/Russia game had the feeling of one of those games where it took everything out of Team USA to pull out the win, and that was going to be the pinnacle of their Games. And it turned out to be the case. Anyway, enough of my rambling about hockey. Let’s talk about the show.

On Sunday night, we returned to Fisht Stadium for a display of Russian culture. The Opening Ceremony focused more on Russian history, and the Closing Ceremony focused more on Russia’s impressive cultural output. There was a segment where performers tried to recreate a painting, and there was also a lot of ballet. Everything was set to a score of classical music by Russian composers, which again made my Facebook feed blow up with glee from my musician friends. I liked the ballet segment the most, personally. There was a cool faux chandelier that was supposed to be reminiscent of the chandeliers at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky. Watching that segment made me really want to see Russia someday. Not in winter, but in decent weather. It looks beautiful.

There is a lot of official pageantry that needs to happen with the Closing Ceremony. The IOC president has to give a speech, and the president of the local organizing committee has to declare the Games closed. This was the first Games for new IOC president Thomas Bach, and his speech was pretty generic. I could excuse that since it was his first outing. There was also a performance of the Russian national anthem by a combination of several children’s choirs. There was also the transfer of the Olympic flag from Sochi to Pyeongchang, South Korea, the site of the 2018 Winter Games (all handled by children, interestingly enough). Following the flag transfer was the obligatory cultural presentation from the next host. The Korean performance was lively, although not quite as high energy as I expected from the country that has given the world K Pop and K Drama. There was a bit of that K Pop energy at the end, though.

One of the elements of Olympic tradition and pageantry that I think is especially cool is that while we have the Parade of Nations in the Opening Ceremony, for the Closing Ceremony, all the athletes enter the field at once. I think it’s supposed to symbolize how the two weeks of athletic competition have brought everyone together. They enter the competition as representatives of their separate nations, and they leave as one unit. I’m happy to report that while Team U.S.A. again wore Ralph Lauren sweaters, the sweaters weren’t quite as garish as the Opening Ceremony sweaters. I didn’t immediately think that the athletes should throw an ugly sweater party. It was fun seeing all the medalists enjoying showing off their new hardware for the cameras. Also interesting was that the Russian flag was carried by the gold medal winning figure skating team, including the now-retired (in between the team and his individual competition) Victor Plushenko. Actually, I can’t rag on Plushenko too much. He may be incredibly narcissistic (he’s got a “Best of Plushenko” skating program, people), but he also has serious back problems, and as someone who also has serious back problems, I have mad respect for what he accomplishes through the pain.

My personal favorite moment of the ceremony happened near the beginning, during one of the many big dancing spectacles. The dancers went to form the Olympic rings, and as a nod to the malfunction in the Opening Cermony, the top right ring didn’t open right away. It stayed small like the malfunctioning ring for several seconds. Then, with great triumph, the dancers formed into an actual ring, and the full set of Olympic rings could be seen. This was accompanied by fireworks, almost as if the Russians were applauding themselves for getting it right this time. I liked this bit because I think it showed that the Olympic organizers (and the Russian people) could take a joke and laugh at themselves. Or maybe it means Putin and Company wanted us to think they can laugh at themselves? The world may never know! Seriously, though, by all indications, the Russian people are pretty chill folks.

One thing that disappointed me a little was that we didn’t really get to see the post-Ceremony concert. I remember in Vancouver, that was the best part of the whole thing. It went full on kitchy Canadiana, with Michael Bublé singing “The Maple Leaf Forever” while big maple leaves and other Canadian emblems danced around him. It was hilarious and showcased the side of Canadian culture that I love the most. There was nothing like that in Sochi, at least that I saw. It’s possible that Late Night covered some of the concert, but I’m an old lady at 30 years old – I don’t stay up that late! There was clearly a concert that happened after the ceremony, but I have no idea who participated.

So, to wrap things up from Sochi. It’s been a fun two weeks overall, with many great performances from the world’s top athletes. There was American dominance in snowboarding and freestyle skiing, Russian dominance in figure skating, and Dutch dominance in speed skating. The Dutch are crazy speed skaters, by the way. Last I checked, the Netherlands won 22 medals, 21 of which were speed skating. It made me a little sad that our own USA speed skating team was so ineffectual, but it was also amusing to see the Dutch be so dominant. And so we say goodbye for a couple years until we head to Rio for the Summer Olympiad. I hear the Brazilians throw a mean party.

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