Sochi Olympics 2014!

On to Sochi Olympics 2014!  At least the Olympics commercials are all the feel-good stuff, compared to the okay-whatever aspect of the Super Bowl commercials.

Google’s founders had the motto of something along the lines of don’t do evil. While I’m never quite sure of what to make of Google half the time, I’ll give them loads of credit for the Google Doodle on the 1st day of Olympic competition, with its citation of the Olympics Charter: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

All that idealism…

Then again, all the talk about how ridiculous things have been on the way to Sochi in Russia… (i.e., how ready will Sochi be, or well, when even the water in the hotels freaked the journalists out, among many other problems…).  As this NPR.org post by Krishnadev Calamur notes, these fears of readiness and the bloopers aren’t really new; they get said about all the Olympics, no matter the season.

But, you got to wonder how the levels of ridiculous can get, when even NBC’s broadcast opened on the Thursday night (the night before the Opening Ceremony, since some rounds of competition just had to start early) with Bob Costas’ eye not looking very good, due to an infection.  At least he was upfront about it and a little self-deprecating about his wearing glasses, although I cracked that I hoped that the noxious looking Sochi water wasn’t the cause of the infection (and I don’t think that I was the only one wondering about that).  Anyway, I thought of Costas’ glasses as his Harry Potter glasses, but he had referred to them as the Mr. Peabody glasses – which would make sense in terms of what generation of cartoons you’re into…

And, later in the evening, NBC had the commercial for the Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie. Ah – corporate synergy/marketing! Nice one, Costas!

Eventually, three days later, Costas also acknowledged that his studio looks like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.  These are, of course, attempts to distract us… from the fact that we have to get over the ridiculous tape delay of NBC.  It got really annoying to watch a piece of some skating, then some luge, then back to skating… and not really know when is on what, as usual.  The Internet helps somewhat, but oh well.

The Opening Ceremony had formality and charm, and somehow got boring during the Parade of Nations (well, ok, that probably happens a lot more than I keep expecting). And, of course, the blooper of the notorious snowflake that did not bloom into the fifth ring of the Olympic Rings.  Hmm. See here for a nice angle view of that from NPR’s On the Road tumblr.

The NPR blog had much more on the Opening Ceremony, compared to, say, NBC’s edited-for-time version.  In fact, NBC had cut off the the anti-discrimination part in the speech of International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, which I had to learn about from Slate, where Daniel Politi notes:

a surprising edit considering how much attention Russia’s anti-gay laws have received in the run-up to the Olympics.

“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,” read one portion of the speech that NBC edited out of the ceremony.

NBC said the edit was simply a time issue.

Also, I don’t know, maybe NBC could have had, say, actual Russian translators, since neither NBC’s own Meredith Vieira or Matt Lauer, nor David Remnick of the New Yorker (who was there to help the NBC people have context) were translating things and their summaries seemed so not-contextual.

I totally missed the part of the Russian Police Choir singing… Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”  I had to see this on NBC’s website. Actually, they sounded kind of good and kind of funny.

Actually, NBC’s introduction opening was beautiful and powerful.  NBC did do that one thing very well.

And, the pomp and circumstance of ballet dance and modern dance, and classical music to do a 1000 years of Russian history in half an hour were mesmerizing. If I didn’t appreciate Russian arts before, I certainly did after watching that. But, it felt awkward how, say, the period of the Russian Revolution(s) (one to get rid of the czarist era, the other to become Lenin-style Communist), World War II, and the Cold War and the Stalin era, not to mention the 1990’s and the pre-Putin era were very much minimized, at the expense of glory and hope.

Well, I understand accentuating the positive stuff is what one would want to sell in an Opening Ceremony, as opposed to, say, the London Summer Olympics’ celebration of their health care system (which was nice but really weird).

I’m a sucker anyway; I’ll watch the Olympics. The US’ slopestyle gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg telling Bob Costas: “It’s sick” – hilarious. I watched some of the skiathlon – just watching made me feel tired, because these were men who were way fitter than I can imagine. And the team skating event – well, I got to say that the Russian dominance in ice skating might be back.  They won the gold in this new event, and the individual events will be quite the watch.

And, maybe it’s just me, but Sochi’s cauldron containing the Olympic fire – it looks so much like Olympic Stadium of Montreal (well, I grew up visiting there every summer, so go figure).  Pretty in that modern art way.

Ridiculousness continued though: the US bobsledder Johnny Quinn, who had to break down his bathroom door after his shower because he got locked in and nobody was coming to his rescue. Seriously: his bathroom door looked like cardboard. And, I think the US Olympic Committee ought to pay for the door to be fixed, since Quinn wouldn’t have been in that position but for the USOC.  Arguably, anyway.

Armin Zoeggeler – the “Superman of Sliding” – winning a bronze in luge for Italy – having been in every Winter Olympics since Lillyhammer 1994.  Slip and slide all right.  As Seth Myers noted once: “The Summer Olympics are a grand spectacle of sports; the Winter Olympics is just 48 different kinds of sliding.”

Or what about all those cute photos of the stray dogs of Sochi? Aww!  We’ll see what’s next as the Olympics continues.

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