The Russian government has viewed the Sochi Olympics as an opportunity to broadcast itself to the world as an ascendant power. The Opening Ceremony, held on Feb. 7 at Fisht Olympic Stadium, was clearly the major event in this plan. Over the course of several hours, Russia told the story of itself in as dramatic and extravagant a manner possible, with colorful onion domes, gorgeous dancing, and the like making for quite a spectacle.
However, one simple malfunction turned into quite the embarrassment for Russian officials and Sochi organizers. Early in the ceremony, five mechanical snowflakes were to form the Olympic rings. Only four of them worked, and pretty much everyone agreed that this minor glitch was more noteworthy than the entire series of successes that followed.
With Sochi's Closing Ceremony coming up on Sunday, officials do not want to repeat the great shame of having a humongous mechanical snowflake not turn into a ring. It's so important, in fact, that the deputy prime minister has promised that it will not happen again. From R-Sport:
The snowflake that failed to turn into one of five Olympic rings at the Sochi Winter Games opening ceremony will be fixed for Sunday's closing show, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Monday. [...]
"We will correct this mistake at the closing ceremony," Kozak said.
Accompanying Kozak on a tour of the Sochi International Broadcast Center, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach made light of the malfunction, saying the Vancouver ceremony four years ago had similar, negligible issues.
Bach is correct, I suppose, but I guess I would respond by saying that no one in Vancouver competed in shirtsleeves. Negligible issues can seem more problematic when the Winter Olympics appear to be taking place in spring weather.
It's easy to mock anyone who takes a snowflake this seriously, but the sheer goofiness of addressing a minor problem with such gravitas speaks to how seriously the Russian government is taking every aspect of the Sochi Games. Considering that the Opening Ceremony pulled off a gigantic artistic interpretation of Soviet revolution and industrial buildup, plus a whole lot more, it would have been very easy for everyone involved to claim success and brush off a fairly unimportant screwup. Let no one say they're not committed to getting things right.
On the other hand, perhaps the closing ceremony will feature a literal closing of the rings back into snowflakes, in which case the malfunctioning ring is already a step ahead of the four others. You tricked us again, Kozak!
- - - - - - -