Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sochi Olympics 2014: Opening Ceremony and Day 1

It's here!  Once again, one of my favorite events takes place:  The Olympics!

It's where the world comes together to celebrate and compete in an awesome display of talents, skills, and hard work.  It's when we cheer for the athletes, not only for the wins, but for giving it their best.  It is a reflection of our aspirations, and representation of our dreams for reaching the highest goals and overcoming the greatest obstacles.  And I enjoy every thrilling and agonizing minute of the human drama and spirit that unfolds with every event.

But I admit that I have very mixed feelings about the Sochi Olympics.  They talked about separating politics from the Games, but I find it very hard to do.  I find it repulsive and disgusting that Russia is deliberately suppressing and discriminating against gays and lesbians in their country.  It is an affront to human rights and a violation of the spirit of the Games.  I have thought long and hard about whether a boycott should have taken place.  But that only punishes the athletes who've worked so hard for so many years for this one chance to compete on the world stage.

The truth is, you cannot separate the politics from the Olympic Games, because both politics and the Olympic Games are expressions of the human experience.  They provide the stage and the tools upon which ideas and beliefs are expressed and disseminated and debated.  And in order to fight and win against the oppression and overcome the challenges, one must rise and speak out and stand up against the injustice.  To be seen and to be heard is a strike back at those who would push you back in the shadows and keep you invisible.  Visibility brings awareness and power.  And perhaps one of the best ways to be visible and be heard is on the Olympics stage.

In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler and the Nazis used the Games as a way to proclaim their version of superiority to the world.  But a black American, Jesse Owens, would claim 4 golds and along with other athletes of different nationalities, demonstrated that great athletes don't come from one nation.  Rather, a great athlete can come from any nation.  More importantly, the poster boy for the Nazis Olympics propaganda, Lutz Lang, was the first to congratulate Owens and among the very enthusiastic and appreciative German crowd who recognized athletic skills and cheered for truly great feats.  And isn't that what the true spirit of the Olympics is?  To celebrate the human spirit and the pursuit of the human dream?

And perhaps that is what should be important to focus on in these Sochi Games.  Not so much the politics and propaganda, but the welcoming spirit of the people of Sochi and the many who are embracing the world's athletes and keeping them safe and cheering them on.  So, thank you, volunteers and workers, for hosting these Games and for welcoming the world to your home.

Now, on to the Opening Ceremonies.  Let's face it.  I think the malfunctioning Olympics Rings is a perfect metaphor for the Sochi Olympics.

It symbolizes that by suppressing its own people and minorities, a nation can never be whole and never be great unless all its people are recognized and treated fairly and justly.

The Opening Ceremony show was a timeline of Russian history and achievement and a showcase of the nation's vast landscape.  Basically, the same theme the Chinese displayed at the Beijing Olympics 2008.  And like the Chinese, only the good parts were shown.  I don't remember seeing the invasion of Tibet in the Beijing Games; so of course, the Russians didn't show the Gulag forced labor camps in its opening ceremony show.  Then again, I don't think any country airs their dirty laundry on the Olympics stage.  I don't recall seeing any witch burnings or slave auctions or Native American oppression in any of the Olympics opening ceremonies held in the US.

I quite enjoyed the floating landscapes. 

Oh my gawd! Look out for horse crap and cow poop falling from the skies!
The light horses with the ring of fire were pretty cool.

Horse hung and a ring of fire!
The ballet dancers were fantastic and among my favorite performers.

Oof! My back! I told you to lay off the borscht!
Then came the jellyfish!

I don't you're ready for this jelly!
I don't you're ready for this jelly!

I don't you're ready for this jelly! 'Cause my body's too bootylicious for you babe!

I quite enjoyed the colors and the many dancers who worked hard to put on a wonderful show.  Thank you for your hard work!  It was great and entertaining and I very much enjoyed it!

But my favorite part of any opening ceremony is the parade of nations!  Not only because I love watching people from different countries on parade, but also because I love the fashion!

I want the New Zealand flag bearer's cape!  The perfect accessory for winter weather!

What's it made of?  It looks like feathers.  How many kiwis and baby penguins do I have to collect to make myself a similar cape?

And while other countries came in monochrome or dull solid blocks, Germany explodes onto the scene in a rainbow of brilliant and dazzling colors!  Now these people know how to dress for a parade!  Absolutely festive and fantastic!

Which way to Mardi Gras and the Gay Pride Parade?
Of course we cannot forget the iconic Bermuda delegation with their famous Bermuda shorts!  Even in winter!  I can forgive the socks and shoes but what I can't forgive is the ghastly dressed snow queen reject in white sticking sorely out in the picture!  My gawd!  What the hell is she wearing?

We wear short shorts!
Seriously Russia, this is what you get when you try to suppress your gays.  Instead of fashion, you created the gayest outfit in the Olympics ever!  She looks like a giant sperm in a discarded condom!  Is this Russia's way to remind the athletes to practice safe sex?

But the most fun and the most daring fashion belongs to the Cayman Islands, who not only came out wearing shorts, but their also sporting beach slippers!

It takes guts and a fun spirit to wear shorts and beach slippers in winter!  You rock, Cayman Islands!  Your fantastic outfits almost makes me forget that there's a huge used condom walking beside you!  Be careful where you step!  Your beach slippers can't protect you from the slippery, sticky, filthy fluids of used prophylactics.

The Olympic cauldron was interesting and I do enjoy the fireworks.  Well done!  I say thank you, volunteers for all your hard work in putting on a very entertaining show!

Now on to Day 1 of the Sochi Olympics, 8 Feb 2014 Sat:

The first gold won in the Sochi Olympics was awarded in men's snowboard slopestyle, where athletes have to snowboard over dangerous obstacles like rails and then launch into the air to make 3 very high jumps and turns.  The surprise winner is American Sage Kotsenburg, whose laid back, easy going attitude and amazing skills launched him ahead of the pack.  Norway's Staale Sandbech edges out the competition and takes the first silver of the games.  It is the first medal that Norway picks up and starts its haul of collecting more medals as a winter Olympics powerhouse.  Canadian phenom Mark McMorris from the flatlands of Saskatchewan, recovering from a rib injuries, soars to claim the bronze in a dramatic competition.

The second gold awarded went to Norway's Marit Bjoergen in the women's skiathlon. The 15km course is split between a classic style for the first 7.5 km, then a final leg in freestyle.  In the final leg of the race, Sweden's Charlotte Kalla made a move to separate herself from the pack and started an intense and exciting race with Bjoergen, that ended with Kalla winning the silver.  Another Norwegian, Heidi Weng, come from behind to take the bronze.

This is Marit Bjoergen's 1st gold at these games, adding to her 3 golds and a silver and bronze from Vancouver 2010.  And she still has more events to race in the coming weeks.  The woman has worn more gold than a rapper at a music award show.

But more important perhaps for the close knit Norwegian team to win gold and bronze, is that they managed to complete this first event under distressing circumstances, when it was learned that fellow teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen's brother died suddenly the day before, the Friday of the opening ceremony.  To remember the devastating loss to their teammate, the Norwegian team wore black armbands during the race.  Jacobsen was not on schedule to race, but her four Norwegian teammates embraced and cried after the race.  And while on the podium, Bjoergen and Weng cried during the award ceremony.  Bjoergen dedicated the victory to Jacobsen’s family.  Jacobson tweeted her heartfelt thanks and gratitude to her teammates for showing their support in the Jacobsen's family loss.

The third gold as well as silver and bronze of the day were won in overwhelming wave of orange crush!

During the off season, we work as traffic cones.
The Dutch dominate the men's 5000m speed skating event.  Netherlands defending Olympic champion Sven Kramer sets a new Olympic record, smashing his old one, and takes the gold to the cheers of the Orange Dutch contingent which included the King and Queen of the Netherlands.  Teammate Jan Blokhuijsen grabs silver, and fellow Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma takes the bronze.

And the Norwegians keep collecting medals!  What an amazing performance in the Men's Biathlon 10k sprint!  The biathletes are among my favorite winter athletes!  And no, it's not because they're bi (though it's possible some of them might be).  But that's not the point.  Biathletes compete in the spectacular sport of biathlon, a combination of cross country skiing and rifle shooting.  In the 10k sprint, the athletes ski for 6.2 miles and have to shoot  5 targets in the prone and another five standing for a total of 10 targets.  Miss a  target and you take a penalty lap.  It's like a combination of ski racing and hunting!  Like you're in some spy movie running away from the enemy and you have to take 'em out during your escape to freedom!

And it is Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway who takes the fourth gold of the day in the biathlon men's 10km sprint.  It is the 7th gold medal of his career, that includes 12 medals.  This incredible feat ties Ole Einar Bjoerndalen with fellow countryman great, Bjorn Dahlie, as the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time!  Even more amazing, at 40 years young, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is the oldest winner of an individual Olympic event.

A stunning upset in the Women's Mogul! Canadian sisters Justine Dufour-Lapointe and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe claimed the gold and silver, leaving defending champion and heavily favored American Hannah Kearney the bronze.  The Canadians start their own collection of medals to show off their own winter powerhouse status, still building off the incredible success of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  In a sport where knees are torn and bodies are destroyed, oh hell, a few competitors were even hurt during trials leading up to the final even, the women race downhill over large bumps and are required to perform two jumps off platforms on the way down.  The Canadian sisters demonstrated incredible speed and control that put them ahead of Kearney, who was the last to race and made a mistake on the way down, costing her the gold and silver.  Still, it was an amazing performance from all the women who took part in the grueling sport.

What a fantastic first day of competition.  It may have been a bumpy start and the controversies and safety issues surrounding the Sochi Olympics made for a very difficult debut.  But with the competition all ready in play, the focus shifts to where it truly belongs, on these incredible athletes who worked so hard to get her.  It was exciting and thrilling to see so many close races and I can't wait to report more on the developments as the Sochi Olympics continue.


  1. The opening ceremony headgear reminded me of those in The Producers Springtime For Hitler number!

    I was sort of hoping that Vlad would have Edward Snowden as a guest of honor in his box.

    The biathlon events are so intense. And they all collapse on the snow after giving it their all.

  2. LX, Ha! Good catch on the headgear!

    I'm hoping Snowden will be put to use cleaning up all the toilets at the Olympics.

    Those biathletes are awesome! You know they have to try really hard to ski fast but at the same time, try to keep calm enough to take those shots and make sure they don't miss.

    Yeah, pretty much everyone in the cross country events just collapse after they cross the finish line. That really proves they gave it their all. That's dedication!