Saturday, February 8, 2014

If you missed the Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony...

... it is truly a shame, because despite everything that has been, is, and will be wrong with the games [or Russia, in general], the celebration of the actual opening was certainly mesmerizing. No, I cannot even begin trying to unpack everything that took place, all the symbolism, the beauty and the creativity... you'll have to see the whole thing to truly appreciate it. But here's a sneak-peak.

Tribute to Russia's pagan and Orthodox past. Tell me that's not pretty..?! (Image from The Independent)

The organizers did a wonderful job blending some of the greatest examples of Russia's culture and (selective) moments from its history with amazing choreography, lots of color, and what seemed to be absolute lack of reservations about the role their country has played and will keep playing on the world stage. Russia had set out to charm the world and - with billions of people watching on - they did quite an impressive job, despite all the negative reporting and commentary by the outraged (and probably bored) Western reporters in the preceding days.

Communism, a la avant-garde. (Images from NBC)

Indeed, it would be absolutely wrong to ignore everything that is wrong with Russia -- including the Sochi Olympics -- and fortunately, the European and American media wouldn't let the Russians get away with any of it. However, even they took a break from their overenthusiastic - and, at times, overdramatized - realism to acknowledge the Opening Ceremony's achievement in terms of public diplomacy and soft power. Yes, a lot of it is and will be claimed as a success for Putin personally; but since he plays a central role in the image and the public diplomacy strategy of the new and resurgent Russia, that goes hand in hand with their perceived public diplomacy success (for better or worse).

Image from Japan Times.

Of course, it is too early to be making any assessments about the long-term impact the Sochi Olympics will have for Russia's soft power and public diplomacy success. Yet, in the short-term, all the hostility towards the host will probably mellow, just as it did in the case of Beijing Olympics in 2008 (thanks to BBC for the timely reminder). After all, it's just a media event and the attention will shift (unfortunately) as soon as the cameras leave.

But, to leave on a brighter note, I thought I'd share some of the awesomeness with you. Of course, you can try and get access to footage of the whole ceremony, but if you were to watch just one part of it -- if you had just about 20-30 mins -- this is what I'd suggest you see.


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