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Exhibiting an eclectic mix of classical music, ballet, literature, Cossack dancers and even space exploration, the nearly three-hour show at the Fisht Olympic Stadium highlighted Russia’s 400-year history – marking the achievements of the past to send a clear message that the country remains a key player in global affairs.
“The show celebrated not only Russia’s geography but also the Cyrillic alphabet, the military prowess of Peter the Great, and Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, ‘War and Peace’,” said The New York Times.
The Sochi Winter Olympic Games were 34 years in the making. In 1980, Moscow hosted the Summer Olympic Games, but these were marred by the boycott of the US and several other countries over Russia’s then invasion of Afghanistan.
Today, according to some sports analysts, Sochi is showing the world what they missed decades ago.
“Friday night’s Opening Ceremony of the XXIId Winter Games was meant to be the Cyrillic spectacle that much of the planet missed or ignored because of the American-led boycott of Moscow’s summer version that provoked the absence of 65 nations, almost all of them US allies,” wrote John Powers of The Boston Globe.
As for the glitch, one of the five Olympic rings failed to open at the start of the ceremonies, but this did not dampen the mood in the stadium.
Ceremony Director Konstantin Ernst brushed off the glitch and told reporters: “Zen buddhists have a saying that if you have the perfectly polished ball, leave a nick in it so you can understand just how perfectly it is polished.”
“No normal person would get distracted by one snowflake that did not open from the story that is being told over two and-a-half hours,” he added.
The Sochi Winter Olympic Games can already boast of breaking a number of records including the number of participating countries – 88 – six more than the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.
Then there’s the cost. Vancouver paid nearly $8 billion to host the Games in 2010. But in Sochi, the cost is expected to reach nearly $50 billion once the Games end on February 23, making the 22nd Winter Olympics the most expensive in history.
Two billion of that tally have been spent on reinforcing the city and the venue for the Olympics with more than 37,000 extra police and military forces bringing the total number of security personnel guarding the city and international events to nearly 100,000.
Moscow has created a virtual “ring of steel” – as nicknamed by media reports – which includes air defence rockets, drones, high-speed patrol boats and advanced military technology to detect bombs or improvised explosive devices.
Security has been a concern since two suicide bomb attacks which targeted the train station and a trolleybus in the southern city of Volgograd, 500km north of Sochi killed 34 people and injured 60 in December.
The attackers were suicide bombers dispatched from an extremist group called Vilayat Daghestan, which says it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Dagestan in the neighbouring Caucasus.
Russian security forces have in recent weeks stepped up raids and arrests of suspected militants in a some Caucasus states.
The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies