#SochiProblems: Claire Live-Blogs the 2014 Olympic Opening Ceremonies

It is HILARIOUS to me that I need to add an explanatory note to this blog post, but three thousand people have read it in less than 24 hours and among them appear to be a handful of angry people who have missed the boat, so let me clarify a few things.

I am not in Sochi.  I am on my couch.  In Oregon.  I am not a journalist, or even in any meaningful sense of the word a “blogger.”  I write things for my friends to read.  If we don’t know each other but my blog makes you rage-y, you’re not striking a blow for journalistic integrity by pointing that out.  This blog isn’t for you just because it’s on the internet and you found it.  I am not remotely attempting to pretend to be an expert on anything except watching things on my TV and making fun of them.  (Please see other examples here, here and here.)  The Olympics are publicly televised entertainment and we are all allowed to be entertained by them in our own way.  Mine includes mocking technical glitches and ugly parkas.  I do not apologize for this.

To the other 3,000+ people so far who have read, shared and enjoyed this – thank you!  Glad we’re all having fun.  ON WITH THE SHOW.

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Guys.  We need to talk about Russia.

First of all, MIND BLOWN: the Sochi Olympics aren’t actually in Sochi.  They’re like 45 miles away in a crappy beach town that had no infrastructure or urban planning or any of the resources necessary to bear the weight of this many people until a drug kingpin bribed Putin (who I’m confident bribed some other people) to choose this as the location, up against the other prime contender which was Salzburg – AKA WORLD CAPITAL OF SCENIC WINTRY ALPINE MAJESTIC BEAUTY.

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You Are (Not) Here.

And while I think we can all agree that Putin is a wackjob Bond villain whose egomania, corruption, ineptitude and just general all-around lunacy would be highly amusing if it weren’t for pesky little things like grotesque human rights violations, and while the news that the International Olympic Committee is rife with corruption barely qualifies as “news,” the sheer magnitude of just HOW BIG A SHITSHOW this has already become continues to astonish me.

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“I WILL CUT YOU.”

If we’re friends on Twitter or Facebook then it’s not news to you how OBSESSED I have become with #SochiProblems and the global media’s running tally of the utter mayhem they discovered when their flights landed and they found themselves in an SNL sketch about the horrors of the Soviet Union.  Seriously.  If someone said to me, “Claire, spin me a yarn with the MOST OFFENSIVE STEREOTYPES IMAGINABLE of life in Russia,” I would hit a lot of these same points.  INSANE corruption!  Stray dogs being shot in the street!  Dangerous, falling-down buildings!  Surveillance cameras in the shower!  Black market lightbulbs!  Hotels with framed photos of Putin everywhere but no running water!  Industrial beige everything!  Check, check and CHECK.  Add a crapload of uncovered manholes in the street, the $51 billion price tag of which an estimated 2/3 just went straight to bribes and everybody knows it (for comparison, Winter 2010 in Vancouver cost like $7 billion because CANADA HAS FUNCTIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE), and Kremlin bureaucrats basically responding to all complaints with the implication that anyone who makes a fuss about the conditions is a goddamn spoiled capitalist American pussy, and you have all the makings of either a TREMENDOUSLY offensive piece of tasteless cultural satire, or, you know, WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.

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Presented without comment.

(You will note that I haven’t talked about the anti-LGBT persecution in my long list of “What’s Wrong With This Picture” because I honestly can’t.  It’s appalling and I’m genuinely afraid people are going to get hurt and there’s no way to make light of it, but I will say this one thing: sometimes people don’t choose a side until you hold a gun to their head.  A lot of countries, corporations and individuals with potentially dubious gay rights histories of their own have woken up and are using this as a platform to voice opposition to Putin’s policies.  That international conversation is valuable and can only bring good in the long run.  Sometimes people who are on the fence need to be forcibly shoved into speaking up by something as horrifically over-the-top as the possibility that international athletes’ lives might be in danger the second they step outside Olympic Village.  There is room in the world for a wide range of conversations about a lot of things about being gay.  We can have big messy important dialogue about marriage and what it means, about whether “the gay gene” exists, about whether TV sitcoms like Will & Grace and Modern Family build greater acceptance or reinforce harmful stereotypes.  What no decent human disagrees on is this: if you create governmental policies SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO THREATEN ANY HUMAN PERSON, you’re the devil.  And whatever NSA analyst is reading this can tell Putin I said so.)

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Seriously. This fucking guy.

And now!  Let’s watch four hours of elaborate, bedazzled pageantry that apparently not a single gay man had any hand in designing!  Let’s marvel at the ghastly Ralph Lauren ugly Christmas sweaters on Team USA and wonder if they, like his 2012 Summer Olympics outfits, were ALSO manufactured in China!  Let’s think about how much prettier this all would have been in Salzburg and try to guess who will be the first athlete who drops out of their events with a broken leg or concussion after an equipment failure in one of the athletic complexes built by Putin’s fat cat construction boss cronies!

GOD BLESS AMERICA.

OPENING CEREMONIES LIVE BLOG!

–And we open with moose!

–Well, spinning Russia as a nation to be celebrated for “constantly reinventing itself” is certainly ONE way of looking at Russia . . .

–All bitchery aside, there is some gorgeous architecture in Russia.

–“The revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.”  AKA COMMUNISM

–I’m going to sum up the first five minutes for you thusly: Faberge!  Catherine the Great!  Space race!  Ballet!  The Kremlin!  Russian nesting dolls!  Vodka!  A fish on a platter that looks like a giant penis!  Kids in furry hats!  Snow!  Babushkas!  Mountains!  A passive-aggressive jibe at how Russia has never hosted the Winter Games before!  A bunch of sexy young people doing extreme snow sports!  Mountains!  Athlete montage!

–Think of the most insane amount of exaggeration you’ve ever heard anyone apply to anything (including me), quadruple it, and that’s this announcer describing mountains.

–“For the next eighteen days, winter will not be a burden, but a theatre with the curtain raised by their soaring spirit.”  Not for 99.9999% of everyone in Russia, bro.

–MORE MOUNTAINS

–BOB COSTAS!  I missed you!

–I like his passive-aggressive reminder that Sochi is a summer resort.  Also like that he’s apparently reporting to us from the bar in a Vegas nightclub.

–Eight minutes in and Bob Costas has already brought up terrorism, human rights violations, corruption, and how the hell we ended up even sending the Games to Russia.  Every once in awhile, real journalism sneaks into Olympic sports reporting and it’s just MAGIC.

–MATT LAUER WHEN DID YOU TURN SEVENTY YOU ARE NOT WEARING THIS LOOK WELL

–They built a stadium for JUST the opening and closing ceremonies.  GREAT USE OF MONEY.

–Meredith is visibly shivering.  GET HER A COAT.

–The tone with which Meredith Viera describes the opening pageant as “ambitious” makes me INCREDIBLY EXCITED for a potential trainwreck.

–Here’s the basic gist of Bob Costas’ interview with President Obama: “How come you didn’t send anyone important with the official delegation?”  “‘Cause we’re super busy.  Hope Putin enjoys Brian Boitano and my middle finger.  P.S. PROBABLY no terrorist attack, no promises though.”  “Hey, remember when we elected you and you promised to fix shit between us and Russia?  WTF?”  “I was definitely hoping you wouldn’t bring that up.  Also Putin’s an asshole.”

–LINE OF THE NIGHT: “The one thing I will say for President Putin is when we do sit down and talk, there’s no beating around the bush or niceties.”  He’s not even PRETENDING not to think Putin’s an asshole.  STONE COLD, MR. PRESIDENT.

–GUYS DON’T LOOK NOW BUT ACTUAL JOURNALISM IS HAPPENING

–The Games have barely started and already the clear loser is the Oregon woolen mill who keeps getting all kinds of press for the U.S. team’s sweaters.  You were sold a bill of goods, Wool Guy, as these sweaters are the WORST IMAGINABLE advertisement for the quality of your product.

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I cannot.

–Sochi native Maria Sharapova joins Bob Costas in the studio, wearing a blazer with some really intense lapel action.

–Walking tour of Sochi with Maria, visiting the sights of her hometown!  At first glance, NOTHING ABOUT THIS PLACE LOOKS WINTRY.  There are palm trees, yo.

–OH MY GOD THIS RUSSIAN CIRCUS IS A TERRIFYING NIGHTMARE HELLSCAPE HOW ARE THOSE CHILDREN WATCHING IT

–And now we’re learning about Russian food!  And Maria gets asked if she’s a good cook, which feels like a shitty sexist question they wouldn’t ask a male champion athlete.  And this dish is described as “a Russian Egg McMuffin!” which sounds like something they were contractually obligated to say

–Awww, the dingy concrete wall where baby Maria Sharapova used to hit tennis balls now has a giant Nike mural of Maria Sharapova.  That’s kind of adorbs.

–UGH, THOSE U.S. SWEATERS, I CAN’T EVEN

–“Are you as good as you’ve ever been?” is one of those annoying questions that make me want to shove Olympic interviewers off a cliff.  HOW CAN HE POSSIBLY ANSWER THAT

–Shaun White with short hair?  I AM NOT ON BOARD.  And he just high-fived a giant bear.  Is this a dream I’m having?

–Matt Lauer is trying to describe this aerial track system using the metaphor of that machine in the dry cleaners that brings your shirts to you.  I’m already excited!

–It sounds like this guy just said “The Russians knew they couldn’t outdo the scope of Beijing or the pageantry of London so . . . they just made everything really big.”

–APOLO OHNO!  YOUR GOATEE IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!

–I’m sorry, I know it’s ridiculous, but the Olympic theme song always makes my heart sing

–And this is the part where we watch an overproduced cinematic little girl’s dream sequence of . . . THE ALPHABET.  And each Cyrillic letter stands for some important Russian thing.  But the scale of the importance appears to vary, as “Catherine the Great” is immediately followed by “Hedgehog In the Fog.”  Other things I recognize: Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky, Kandinsky, Nabokov, the periodic table, the Russian space station, Sputnik, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russe, television (WHAT?), Chekhov, Chagall, Pushkin, parachute.

–Okay, Putin, you win, this video is freaking gorgeous.

–And now we’re going to watch an eleven-year-old be INSANELY BRAVE and face down stage fright in front of literally billions of viewers.

–She will portray a series of dream sequences “because Russians see themselves as dreamers,” Meredith Viera reads woodenly from her Kremlin-issued press release.

–The first dream sequence is a burlap kite.  Do Russians ALSO see themselves as totally colorless?

–OMG THE KID IS FLYING.  That’s pretty cool.

–And now we have a sea of floating islands sliding across the floor.  So, we’re clear that THIS is where all the money went that didn’t get spent on finishing the construction projects, yes?

–Okay, I’m not gonna lie, these production values are INSANE and I’m LOVING it.  They’re like fairy-tale tableaux.  YEAH THAT’S RIGHT, I KNOW HOW TO PLURALIZE “TABLEAU” THE FANCY WAY.

–Oh my God, I thought the Islands were sliding across the ground, BUT THEY ARE FLYING THROUGH THE AIR.  This is insane.  My grantwriter brain wants to see the production budget for this so damn bad.

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PICTURED: Literally millions of dollars.

–Um, the girl in this show BROKE HER ARM IN REHEARSAL??

–Awww, but she dreams of coming back to the Olympics one day as an athlete.  Okay, adorable.

–Giant floating moon and stars!

–She’s singing while suspended in the air.  Holy crapballs.

–And now we’re in the Les Miz finale, apparently, with a mob of extras surging forth from the fog.

–Gorgeous costumes.  Better than anything we’re going to see in the Parade of Nations.

–Beautiful giant stars of light about to turn into the Olympic rings.

–AAAAHAHHAHAHAHAA!  The snowflakes were supposed to expand into the Olympic rings and one of them didn’t.  It looks janky and hilarious and I think a crew member is about to get executed.

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Someone just got so fired.

–Vladimir Putin never doesn’t look like a smug contract killer.

–Russian national anthem, sung by the Choir of the Sretensky Monastery.  Guys, the Russian national anthem sounds literally exactly like you would expect the Russian national anthem to sound.

–And now people in light-up hoodies are walking around dramatically.  Oh, they formed the Russian flag.  And now there are red, white and blue spotlights.  My GOD this is dramatic.

–The flag was raised by Russian cosmonauts!  Pretty awesome.

–PARADE OF NATIONS!  Bring on the hideous sweaters!

–There’s a giant light-up map of the Earth on the floor which will shift so that everyone who enters will be walking out “through the heart of their own country.”  Okay, it’s hard to make fun of that.  I kind of love it.

–“Alphabetical by Cyrillic” means what order anyone will be entering is an exciting adventure for a live-blogger who doesn’t know Cyrillic.

–Greece is first, in chic blue tracksuits!  And the light-up hoodie people, who are just big white puffballs now, are swaying to the music around the perimeter of the floor in the CRAZIEST WAY.

–Winter Olympic outfits aren’t as interesting as summer ones, so far.

–OH MY GOD THE WOMEN CARRYING THE NATION SIGNS ARE WEARING INDESCRIBABLE PLASTIC OUTFITS.  This is some Lady Gaga shit right here.  They’ve got white dresses, white boots, a plastic exoskeleton around their torso with the country’s name, and a headdress that looks like someone forgot to put glass in a stained-glass window frame.

–Albania’s flag is House Baratheon.

–ANDORRA!  YOUR SWEATERS ARE GIVING ME LIFE.  So wearable!

–Argentina, in shapeless gray parkas, is disappointing me greatly.

–Parkas and ski pants.  Ski pants and parkas.  Lots of black.  Sometimes a color.  UGH GIVE ME SOMETHING TO MOCK.

–Belarus at least has a kicky red-and-white pattern on their hats and scarves?  That’s the most I have to offer you.

–OH GOOD BELGIUM I’M GLAD YOU GOT THE MEMO ABOUT WEARING ONLY CEMENT COLORS

–Bermuda!  The shorts!  YOU ALWAYS COME THROUGH FOR ME!  I’m so happy to see variety that I’ll overlook your NAVY BLAZERS AND RED SHORTS

–Bulgaria!  Red pants!  A head-to-toe look that fits your bodies!  The red and green makes you look a little like a selection of salsas, but I’ll allow it.

–Every time they pan over a line of white dancing puffballs, I laugh out loud.

–Parade of Nations selfies are my favorite thing.  I love watching everyone having fun.

–“If you’re wondering how we went from Brazil to Macedonia . . .”  WE’RE NOT WONDERING, MEREDITH, WE UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFERENT ALPHABETS WORK.

–Great Britain’s furry hats.  DISCUSS.

–Are we saying it “Hungry” now?  Because I thought it was “HUN-guh-ree” but everyone is just wantonly dropping that A.

–No one is having a better day than the Venezuelan flag-bearer.

–Meredith clarifies that the hideous German rainbow outfits are NOT a protest about gay rights.  Soooo, they’re just regular ugly, not trying-to-make-a-statement ugly.

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I told you those headdresses were next-level bonkers.

–“She’s a risk analyst for an insurance company in Copenhagen and practices after work.”  Just HEARING about their lives is exhausting.

–And “Dominica” becomes the first country on tonight’s list I’ve never heard of.  There are at least two or three every year.

–Israel and Iran had to stand in line right next to each other for hours.  To be a fly on THAT wall . . .

–Iran has the best color combo so far – lime green for the dudes, plum for the ladies.

–Ireland is wearing what looks like abstract hunting camo.

–Spain ALWAYS looks like ketchup and mustard.  THERE I SAID IT.  Oh, but the girls’ mustard yellow blazers are actually, close up, kind of adorbs and wearable?

–Kazakhstan’s flag guy is wearing an INTENSE traditional costume that is the most interesting outfit I’ve seen so far.  Ooh, and one dude has teal glasses that match his teal parka!  BE MY BEST FRIEND, KAZAKH FASHION ICON!

–Canada!  Red toggle peacoats!  Love.

–Kyrgsyzstan is wearing BANANAS hats.  (Also, I’m flailing on that spelling.)

–You just KNOW the Chinese president is smug and cackling after how lame this show was in comparison to theirs.  Also, add Team China to Spain on the list of Coats I Would Buy.

–Latvia, and there’s no way of saying this nicely, is wearing poop colors.  Their brown Missoni-chevron-striped-ish hats and scarves are cute, but the outfit is BAD.

–Team Lithuania is dressed like Sprite.

–Liechtenstein is sporting the casualties of a tragic paintball accident at the parka factory.

–MEXICO!  These sweaters are fantastic!  Navy blue with white trim, super wearable.  Also, the flag bearer is my new life hero.  He’s the oldest competitor in the Games, he’s a professional photographer, he was friends with Andy Warhol, and he’ll be competing in a mariachi-print snowsuit.  And I’m going to have a million of his babies.

–I love the Independent Olympic Participants.  They’re always such fascinating stories.  Wait, India got disqualified for corruption?  Did that just happen?

–THE GUY FROM NEPAL’S LAST NAME IS SHERPA?!?!?

–Norway!  SHINY SILVER HATS!  They must have raided a mid-80’s gay club on their way to the airport.

–Here’s what I don’t like.  In the Summer Olympics, half the fun is delegates wearing outfits that at least somewhat resemble the traditional cultural garb of their countries.  But ALL of these people are just wearing different combinations of parkas and ski pants.  Can’t you give us at least SOME semblance of your country’s cold-weather gear, you countries who have cold weather?  GIVE ME SOMETHING TO WORK WITH.

–As if on cue, Peru arrives with a girl wearing I THINK tiger-print leggings.

–Meredith Viera breaks the painful news that I’m going to have to listen to Ryan Seacrest in a minute.  For lo, where two or three are gathered in some kind of major televised event, there you shall find Seacrest’s uncomfortable interviews.

–Just a reminder that white puffballs are still dancing in the background of every shot.

–There are a LOT of ex-Soviet nations here.  That’s gotta be weird, right?

–Oh God.  The U.S. sweaters.  I cannot.

–They have a cameraman in with the delegation so you can see what the athletes see, and I won’t lie, it’s kind of amazing.

–There are 12 new events?  I didn’t know that.  Oh man, one of our moguls skiiers is on crutches and can’t compete and I want to hug her.

–Guys, I’m going to lay a truth bomb on you – I miss Shaun White’s long hair.

–The boys are shouting “USA! USA!” bro-ily into the cameras, and the girls are crying.  #GenderStereotypes

–Please add “Tajikistan” to the list of countries I didn’t know existed.  This is always embarrassing.

–Um, Thailand’s top competitor is also AN AWARD-WINNING CLASSICAL VIOLINIST.  These people’s lives make me tired.

–Oooh. Chinese Taipei.  The ankle-length shapeless blue coats.  Just NO.

–“Timor-Leste”?  What the hell?  That’s a place??

–YES!  THANK YOU TONGA!  Their parkas have a palm tree landscape airbrushed over their flag as an overall pattern, and it’s both hideous and the most interesting thing I’ve seen on a parka all night.

–Of COURSE they passive-aggressively cut to Putin’s glower as Ukraine walks in.  In a VERY busy black-and-yellow pattern on their parkas.  But it’s been a boring night for fashion so I’m not mad at it.

–The Finns look so . . . Finnish.

–France gets points for the womens’ parkas being belted, but without their kicky red and blue striped scarves, they’d just be a rainbow of prison-bathroom grays.  YOU’RE FUCKING FRENCH.  WE EXPECT BETTER FROM YOU.  WHEN IRAN SHOWS UP BETTER DRESSED THAN FRANCE, WE HAVE PROBLEMS.

–Hilariously long and uncomfortable shot just focusing on one lone puffball dancer, moving awkwardly like your uncle at a wedding.

–The Czechs are kind of pulling off those giant woolly hats.

–Dear handsome Chilean gentleman – you are a gorgeous specimen of manhood, but you are ruining it with that fanny pack.

–“His signature move is the ‘YOLO Flip.'”  I just threw up in my mouth.

–Estonia!  White parkas with black fur trim on the hood, fitted gray pants, and black-and-white scarves.  Super chic.

–THE JAMAICAN BOBSLED TEAM!  THE CROWD GOES WILD!

–Japan showed up in lab coats, for some reason.

–You can hear the exact moment the crowd spots Russia’s flag coming out on the stadium floor.

–PUTIN.  FUCKING SMILE LIKE A HUMAN.  THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE.

–I think this is the Russian equivalent of “We Will Rock You.”

–And the ladies of Russia win my favorite coat of the night.  They’re wearing red or white or blue shearling-style coats with fur trim, and the guys have double-breasted shearling-trim blazers.  They look legitimately great.

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I would wear that white one EVERY DAY.

–HOLD UP.  This song is by t.A.T.u?  So REAL lesbians get beaten up or thrown in jail, but FAKE ONES ARE FINE????  Fuck you, Russia.

–More dramatic flying set pieces!  Ghost horses pulling an orange LifeSaver!

–Candyland version of Russian architecture in the shape of a whale, which the commentators VISIBLY have no idea what the e deal is.

–And now I see . . . some sparkly Daleks?  And the kid is back.  And we’re going to get an abstract history lesson about Russia “through the eyes of a child”?  Let’s see if we bypass the mob murder of the Romanoffs or anything about the gulags.

–The triangular inflatable people (accurately described by Matt Lauer as resembling those waving inflatable guys in used-car lots) are bananas.

–Guys, I CAN’T DESCRIBE TO YOU the sensory overload happening here.  The onion dome architecture pieces seemed to have morphed into weird circus creatures and OH MY GOD THEY ARE NOW FLOATING UP IN THE AIR.  What was just a building has literally floated into the air.

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Kind of epic, no?

–And now we have a gorgeous pen-and-ink-looking illustration of ships at sea on the floor, with a mob of community-theatre actors pretending to be sailors and kind of dancing around like they’re pulling at ropes.

–This illustrated ocean is legitimately amazing.  And now there’s a projection of a map of St. Petersburg unrolling over it.  And now there’s a marching army of imperial soldiers.  These illustrations are gorgeous.  The army of dudes is marching through the streets of Old St. Petersburg on this projected map.  And now some cannons are going off, which would be a cooler effect if I didn’t know the magnitude of military damage that’s been inflicted on this city over the years.

–The ballroom scene of War & Peace is now unfolding on a giant scale, and I’m kind of in love with all these costumes.  “This is the ‘peace’ part of War & Peace.”  Yes, we’ve neatly sidestepped a LOT of war already.

–We have dancers from the Bolshoi!  Not the acid-throwers, I’m assuming?

–Is there a ballet of War & Peace and I just didn’t know about this?  Did the Bolshoi create this new?  Am I the only one seeing this and imagining “Once Upon a December” from the movie Anastasia?

–THE COSTUME DESIGNER FROM THE MATRIX MADE THESE DRESSES YOU GUYS

–Is he telling us about the Revolution because they’re just going to breeze right past it with pretty dancing?  Because this is sort of starting to feel like “Russia’s Greatest Hits.”

–Oh, snow is falling and people are making dramatic “Oh no, I am frightened!” faces under strobe lights.  We may be getting there.

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This is how we’re doing the Russian Revolution.

–Oh.  Everyone just fell down and died.  Shit got real.

–” . . . two important events: the Russian Revolution, and this commercial break!”  THAT JUST HAPPENED.

–Flying train, red lighting, an army of dancers in identical red-and-black bodysuits, abstract steampunk machinery, and people riding in giant wheels.  This is how we’re doing Communism.  Apparently this song is a very famous Soviet march.

–The New Yorker editor who is serving as guest commentator is the only person saying interesting things.  He lived in the USSR for years and is telling the others about illegal TV programming.

–World War II.  “No country paid a heavier price than Russia.”  Well . . . GERMANY.

–Now we’ve got dramatic white spotlights everywhere and the red bodysuited Communist dancers are frozen.  BLACKOUT.  All we can see is everyone’s smartphone cameras blinking in the background.

–They’re handling a lot of this ugly history reasonably tastefully, I must say.  We’re pretending like Communism was more about industrialization of labor than, you know, gulags and oppression, but it’s not like the Opening Ceremonies in 2000 in Atlanta had a slavery montage, so . . .

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Communism! So pretty!

–And now we’re in the midcentury USSR – Soviet cars and planes, what look like giant newspaper headlines, a bunch of cosmonauts, “They like to indulge in nostalgia just like we do.”  RUSSIANS – They’re Just Like Us!

–Color has arrived!  A bunch of ladies in beehives are doing the Hustle!  “But again, this is HIGHLY idealized,” says a commentator tactfully.

–The giant skyscraper backdrops look straight out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.  I’m in LOVE with the projected illustrations.

–“Putin is controlling what version of history children are seeing in textbooks, so this version of events is . . . not outside his grasp.”  So he wrote this script, you’re saying.

–And now there’s a bunch of weddings and red baby carriages.  Apparently Putin is trying to get the birth rate up.

–Our little girl is back with a red balloon, “which represents the end of the 20th-century dream.”  Sure.

–And we’re just skipping right past Gorbachev and Yeltsin.  We just end like that’s the end of history.

–And now I’m caught up to my DVR!  Just in time for boring speeches, the part I WOULD fast-forward.

–President of the IOC is making a speech.  Time for a bathroom break.

–You’ll have to tell me if he said anything good, I used that time to pee and get a cookie.

–Putin declares the Games officially open, and an EPIC FIREWORKS EXTRAVAGANZA kicks off.  And he STILL.  CAN’T.  SMILE.

Swan Lake music in the house!  And . . . dancing light-up jellyfish?

–You realize that nobody cares if that’s a famous ballerina when they’re all wearing glow-in-the-dark tents made of string and spinning around in the dark where all you can see are dots, right?

–Now forced to watch the commercials.  UGH.  Though I have to say this ukulele version of “A Whole New World” is kind of charming.

–The flag is coming into the stadium!

–The World Cup is going to be here in 2018?  Hopefully the hotels will be finished by then.

–“This was the kind of beach town where Soviet bureaucrats went on vacation for two weeks in the summer.”  A RINGING ENDORSEMENT.  ” . . . until Vladimir Putin spoke to one of the richest businessmen in Russia and said, ‘Why not make Sochi a destination?'”  Just so we’re all clear, that “rich businessman”?  HEROIN KINGPIN.  THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

–The Olympic hymn is being sung by a famous Russian soprano in an OUT OF THIS WORLD Disney Princess gown that I want to wear every day.  There is like an entire Baltic nation’s GDP worth of tulle on that skirt and it has crazy unflattering hip ruching and a weird collar, but it is just so unapologetically froofy that I can’t be mad at it.

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I can’t take credit for the line “The Russian Not-Gay Men’s Chorus,” but it’s absolute genius.  (All credit goes to my friend Isaac’s cousin Danny who said it on Facebook.)

–Love hearing Explosions In the Sky on the Olympic commercial soundtrack!

–And now we have a tribute to “Olympic gods,” not to be confused with the gods of Olympus.  There are big abstract three-dimensional constellations, what looks like a huge atom, a shitload of white-clad skaters swirling around, and some INTENSE drumming

–GIANT HOCKEY PLAYERS MADE ENTIRELY OF LIGHTS, HANGING IN THE AIR

–“Now the software designers for this thing are just showing off a little bit,” says Bob Costas.  It’s like a laser light show made by someone who loves hockey more than anything in the world and also can’t see colors.  Oh, the Black Swan music was back for a second.  Is this like a medley of all the songs we’ve heard so far?  Will there be a quiz?

–The way these giant hockey gods blink in and out of existence and get closer and closer reminds me distressingly of the Weeping Angels and I don’t like it.

–This commercial is a good time to discuss how stupid it is that McDonald’s and Coca-Cola sponsor the Olympics every year as the “official drink” and “official restaurant.”  Let’s take a poll, shall we, of how many of these athletes consume those products regularly.

–It’s also a good time to discuss, as Marabeth just texted me, whether Putin knows that the Swan Lake music they chose is not exactly happy or celebratory.  It’s an homage to dramatic betrayal and death.  If he was the Bond villain he sort of seems to be, it would be a secret clue that he was about to blow up the building.

–Oh, this is my first time seeing the super-controversial Coke commercial!  It’s beautiful and it’s making me cry and I love everything about it.

–Maria Sharapova running in with the torch!  This is the part where I have ALL THE FEELS.

–And here we see Putin’s secret gymnast mistress with whom he has a secret family, although not really that secret because I’ve read about it in like six different places, running with the torch and smiling for all the world like a woman who DOESN’T have to have sex with Vladimir Putin.

–And now the flame is running through all the jillions of cast members, waving and in costume, which is a really gorgeous visual.

–Marabeth: “The old people have to run the farthest!”  It is a HIKE to that cauldron.  They basically just jogged through like an empty IKEA parking lot.

–I’m a cynical, grumpy old broad, but I am powerless to resist the majesty of the lighting of the Olympic flame.  Look at that pyrotechnic majesty!  The flame!  The fireworks!  It’s all working.

–And now we cut back to the interior, just so they can show us they got that one rogue snowflake to turn into a ring like it was supposed to before and didn’t.

–THESE FIREWORKS ARE AMAZEBALLS.images2

–“It was cool!  I’ve never been to the ballet!” a random Olympian tells Mary from NBC.  Bro, YOU STILL HAVEN’T.

–From a certain angle, the Olympic cauldron looks like the Imperial crest from Star Wars.

–Maria Sharapova is telling an adorable story about watching the Parade of Nations as a kid in the middle of the night and putting on a white hat like the Russian team and marching about her living room.  And I just fell in love with her.

–FINAL THOUGHTS: Meredith Viera thinks the production designer is crying into his vodka over that ring malfunction.  Matt Lauer thinks we shouldn’t be talking about anything that isn’t sports-specific during the Olympics.  Like, you know, RUSSIA.

–And now we have a slow-mo montage of the highlights of EVERYTHING WE JUST SAW, set to a transparently tear-jerker song about “we are one/we are how we treat each other and nothing more.”  And I want to be exasperated but I’m going to cry for real.  DAMMIT I LOVE THE OLYMPICS.

And, that’s a wrap!  Goodnight from Sochi!

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

BUM, BUM, bum bum bum BUM, bum bum ba-ba-bum bum bum ba-ba-bum bum bum ba-ba-bum bum BUM!

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6 thoughts on “#SochiProblems: Claire Live-Blogs the 2014 Olympic Opening Ceremonies

  1. Claire,
    What can you tell us about the Olympics ring situation? What’s with the special snowflake there on the right? I missed the memo on that whole thing, it seems.

    • Just a technical difficulty, I think. They were supposed to sort of accordion-fold out from a snowflake into a ring, and one of them didn’t. And I’m SURE whatever crew member was responsible has already been fired.

  2. Ya know what Clair… You are an IDIOT! As someone who has been out here much longer then you have, and will be long after you leave… Get some perspective and stop spouting your OPINIONS as FACTS!

    Yes, things here are not perfect, far from it! But really don’t talk about things you have no clue about.

    • Wow Chris, no need for name calling. Just how did you stumble upon a blog written by a self-proclaimed playwright in Oregon and decide she was spouting opinions as facts? Where exactly were you given the impression she was declaring herself an expert on Russia? Also, not sure what specific issue you have here with what she posted.

      Do you disagree on the ridiculous nature of the USA’s sweaters? Were you a fan of the cacophony of colors on the German team? Are you in fact the designer of the Latvian outfits? Did you not see the lighting of the final Olympic ring go awry? (trick question as you wouldn’t have unless you were in the stadium or watching internationally, thanks to careful editing on Russian TV). Or, are you such a fan of President Putin that you are displeased with her not-so-veiled disdain for him and his politics? On the last one, fun fact, in the US we do get to have opinions on our political leaders and share them publicly and they aren’t always positive. I know, right?!

      Or perhaps, you are actually a troll-bot that was searching RSS for keywords regarding the Olympics so you could pick a fight? If you actually read everything she posted there was plenty of patting on the back for the overall spectacle of the evening, so really Chris I believe you are barking up the wrong tree here.

      No judgment (except if you’re a troll-bot), just really curious.

    • Hey Chris- I didn’t see where she was offering her opinions as facts. As a matter of fact, the whole thing was her describing the ceremonies AS SHE SAW THEM. So it doesn’t need to be clarified that these are her opinions. Did you sit around last night just waiting for someone, anyone to blog about this? So you could call them an idiot? I hope you got it out of your system. There’s a crazy page on facebook that I could hook you up with if you would go all apeshit on somebody. Let me know if you want the link.
      Lisa

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