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Putin Opens Winter Olympics in Sochi

Published: February 8, 2014 (Issue # 1796)



  • Sochi games' lavish opening ceremony gets under way.
    Photo: Vitaly Beloussov / RIA Novosti

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
    Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti

Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Winter Olympics in Sochi on Friday after a lavish opening ceremony showcasing Russia as a resurgent nation.

“I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games officially open,” Putin said, raising the curtain on an Olympic Games that started as his pet project and has become the crowning moment of his third term as president.

In front of a near-capacity crowd at the 40,000-seat Fisht Olympic Stadium and millions of TV viewers worldwide, the opening show drew on Russia’s rich musical and literary heritage, with a few nods to its Soviet past.

“Tonight we are writing a new page in Olympic history. These are the first-ever Olympic Games in the new Russia,” said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. The German former fencer, 60, is overseeing his first Games since replacing Jacques Rogge at the helm of the IOC in September.

“The Russians’ desire for their own winter sport resort was so great because of their passion for sports on snow and ice. What took decades in other parts of the world has been achieved here in just seven years. That is a remarkable achievement.”

Bach called on athletes “to live together with harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason,” after an Olympic buildup marred by disputes over Russian laws banning promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships to children.

With a total cost of $51 billion, the Sochi Olympics are on course to be the most expensive in history by some measures, although that includes infrastructure not directly used for the Games and Russian officials say only $6.4 billion of directly competition-related costs should count.

Putin was the key figure in securing the right to hold the Games in 2007, giving a rare English-language speech to IOC delegates in Guatemala before Sochi was chosen.

Russian high culture was prominent in the ceremony, with allusions to the novel "War and Peace" and artist Wassily Kandinsky, while the Olympic hymn was sung by world-renowned opera singer Anna Netrebko.

Patriotism was a frequent theme, with the Russian national anthem played in its full form, lasting several minutes, as color-coded performers formed the country’s flag while red, white and blue lights beamed national colors around the arena.

The show began with a run through the Cyrillic alphabet, and there were also cameos from a choir of Orthodox monks and a squad of cosmonauts.

The country’s awkward relationship with its Soviet past was dealt with in a segment where Communist symbols – including Stalin-era skyscrapers and a 50-foot-high hammer and sickle – merged with jazz and other elements of what would once have been considered subversive culture.

The Olympic cauldron was to be lit by two heroes of Soviet sport, figure skater Irina Rodnina and hockey goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, each of them with three Olympic gold medals to their name. The first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, was one of the bearers of the Olympic flag.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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