February 8, 2014

"The thing that's struck me about all the hype for the Sochi Games is that it seems to be completely centered around the host city and the spectacle of the Olympic Games..."

"... and not nearly as much as usual about the athletes competing. Is it because of the dearth of American medal hopes in figure skating, and that I don't care about any of the flippity-flip 'extreme' sports?"

We watched a little of the opening ceremony stuff last night. The intro historico-travelogue film montage — with a fleeting glimpse of a statue of Lenin — had me welling with involuntary and inexplicable feelings of love for Russia. I suspect a vast communist conspiracy. But then the athletes in matching parkas marching out behind flags seemed absurd. "How is this entertainment?" I cried out in pain. The announcer lady was burbling about the great degree of enthusiasm with which some athlete with few (if any) teammates was waving his country's flag and declaring that Great Britain's jackets were the best so far. "It might work all right for people who really love flags or who get into the fashion-show aspect of the jackets, like, oh, blue with red trim, excellent!" I said, but that was the next morning, after we shut off the TV and crashed for 8 hours.

ADDED: You can see the film montage here along with by Ed Driscoll's criticism of it as praising communism.  The text of the voiceover is:
The towering presence, the empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint. The revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. 
I don't hear praise there, but the refraining from criticism, excusable as the etiquette of a guest. To call something a "pivotal experiment" is not to say that it was a good idea or that it produced a good result. It's certainly accurate to call it an experiment and pivotal. And look at the next line:
But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures. 
This asks use to turn away from the usual thoughts about politics and look at the people and their "passion."
As a more reliable right to their collective heart. 
I'm not sure the word there is "right," but if not, what is it? "Relic"? It's very emotive semi-gibberish, but this reinforces the idea that it is the Russian people we ought to think about now. Admittedly, "collective" sounds commie.
What they build in aspirations lifted by imagination. What they craft, through the wonder of every last detail. How magical the fusion of sound and movement can be. How much a glass of distilled perfection and an overflowing table can matter. 
This part bordered on capitalistic — all the great things Russians have made. (And all the vodka they drink.)
Discover the Russian people through these indelible signatures. Discover what we share with them through the games that open here tonight.
This is mostly a softly fuzzy invitation to think of the host country as its people, even as the Olympics invite us to think of the athletes from the different countries as the individuals they are. Let's concentrate on what we share, rather than where governments disagree. Feel the love. As noted in my original post, this minute-long click really worked on me at an emotional level, despite my intellectual perception of bullshit, inanity, sentimentality, and subliminal communist propaganda.

53 comments:

traditionalguy said...

It is a big commercial for the host country and advertisers on NBC.


Content is a seriously second thought. But I can't wait to see the curling and skilled broom work.

The Greeks had no winter games anyway. Why should they?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

It was fun that Canada had to march in with the Ks due to the Cyrillic alphabet.

Patrick O said...

It's not just this Olympics. The Olympics over the last 20 years have been turned into a "reality tv" spectacle by NBC.

Which is precisely why I am utterly uninterested in watching. It's all filler and, tradguy is right, advertising.

Which basically makes it primarily about corruption and in 3 or 4th place about the athletes.

Someone, some big country, needs to say, "no!" to the Olympics as it is currently formed, and have a way of athletic competition that isn't coupled with what it has become. A hundred years ago, host cities were needed. Now, there's absolutely no reason why sports events need to be tied to specific geographical centers or require new facilities in each place.

The Olympics are a symbol of every hope that went wrong in the 20th century.

CWJ said...

Althouse, if you are referring to the ABC's of Russia video, I too enjoyed that.

However, I also enjoyed the parade of countries. It was fun for us to tick off all the countries from which our exchange children came. The only missing piece was Egypt.

garage mahal said...

Russian Police Choir sings 'Get Lucky'. Although I don't think NBC broadcasted it.

nina said...

I was surprised that I also liked the history/ABC/etc portion of the ceremony and I never get much out of that part of the Olympics. And, too, I had this deep feeling of anguish and sympathy for the people who live there. Such beautiful music, dance, such a tragic past!

Titus said...

I believe in my cold gay heart that all the Russian male figure skaters are actually straight.

Russia must be doing something well if they can even keep the male figure skaters hetero.

The male pair figure skater from Russia needs to be a model or something. His haircut is way cool. I watched everyone of his performances on youtube last night and got a little hard.

David said...

Garage, thank you for the link to the police choir. Absolutely hilarious.

I love listening to Russians sing.

Even that crap.

SteveR said...

When I figure out how I'm going to pay $500 a month for insurance that won't cover anything (meaning anything)until I've paid $12,000,I'll get back to watching the Olympics. Enjoy!

Kelly said...

I haven't watched the Olympics in years. I use to watch when I was young. I think maybe it was the cold war rivalry against the soviets that made it interesting. The 1980 Miracle on Ice was the first and last hockey game I was ever interested in.

rehajm said...

When I figure out how I'm going to pay $500 a month for insurance that won't cover anything (meaning anything)until I've paid $12,000,I'll get back to watching the Olympics. Enjoy!

The creators of the plan insist you do it by staying home and watching the Olympics.

SteveR said...

The creators of the plan insist you do it by staying home and watching the Olympics.

Oh thanks! I was wondering if I'd have to work.

rehajm said...

During the Russian history portion of the opening ceremony, the BBCs commentators pointed out how many millions of people died during each phase.

Opinh Bombay said...

The heck with biathlon. I want to watch Snowmobiles and Grenades.

lemondog said...

Russian activist detained in Sochi dog protest

Three activists unfurled a banner near Red Square that read "Bloody Olympics" and depicted a puppy covered in blood.

From Inwood said...

For the LSM, by parity of illogic, weren’t Mussolini’s Fascism, The Confederacy, The French Revolution, The Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere… “pivotal experiments”?

And what will they say about Nazism the next time the Olympics are in Germany?

For God’s sake, those in the LSM, who have no knowledge of history, criticism of communist regimes is not a requirement for membership &, QED, mistakes about the failures & excesses of such regimes are easily forgiven or excused. The LSM is concerned only with the defects of our society — you know The Tea Party & The Koch Brothers, Big Oil (gurgle, gurgle) — so criticism of the horrors & failures in Left totalitarian societies is unimportant. In fact, for most in the LSM, it is excusable to be soft on such, er, excesses on the Left but inexcusable to be soft on Amerika.

Roughcoat said...

Althouse seems fond of the word "bullshit."

David said...

Roughcoat said...
Althouse seems fond of the word "bullshit."

But not the concept.

Hagar said...

It was ABC Sports that turned the Olympics into a TV spectacular.

Hagar said...

Inwood,
I did think of that when I first saw the the NBC quote. For the loony left intellectuals, communism (small c) really still is the ideal, and Communism )big C) just did not find the right way to present it so that "the masses" would accept it in the 20th century.

Humperdink said...

I might watch a few of the hockey games as my Pittsburgh Penguins are well represented. Beyond that, nyet.

Lyle said...

Sochi is in a part of the world we or I don't get many glimpses of: the Black Sea and the Caucuses.

The mountains look impressive, I must say.

Big Mike said...

I don't care very much for the outfits that the various countries stuffed their athletes into. Germany!?! Hands down the worst. Lithuania? Please tell me you stopped payment on the check you wrote to the people who designed your team's outfits.

And Ralph Lauren, the winner of the "worst Christmas sweater" contest should not have been taken on as an advisor for your style team.

Big Mike said...

Loved the outfits on the Russian women, though. Hope they used real fur to stick a thumb in the eye of the PETA types.

sinz52 said...

Americans aren't that interested in the Sochi Olympics because for most of them, figure skating just isn't their thing.

Not as compared with football (the Super Bowl's ratings), baseball (the World Series ratings), ice hockey, etc.

And so NBC made a big mistake by showing figure skating.

Even if the U.S. had a team that could win, I can't see Americans drinking beer and chanting, "Axel! Lutz! Hit 'em again!"

Anonymous said...

Their pivotal experiment with gay-bashing is not likely to be the subject of softly fuzzy polite-guest film montages anytime soon.

Birches said...

I enjoyed the foray into all the more positive parts of Russian history and culture. I thought it was tasteful and not overtly nostalgic for Communism. But then again, I really didn't experience the breadth of the Cold War. The closest I got was being scared by Sting's Russians when I was a little girl. So I think Ed Driscoll's being a little too paranoid.

The ballet was captivating. The men's choir singing the Russian National Anthem was fantastic. Let the dang country show off for a night; they do have a rich history.

St. George said...

Takeaway:

All they know how to do is hand-paint dolls, get drunk, and make spaceships that are uglier than our sleek beauties. They're good at killing people, but, boy, do their dancers have killer legs.

They are all white, except for all the minorities they keep hidden who want to kill them. And it is FUCKING COLD there!

God Bless America, the land of the free, the home of the brave WHERE WE HAVE FOUR SEASONS, CALIFORNIA GIRLS, AND WE HAD A BIG CIVILFUCKING WAR AND ELECTED AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESIDENT TO APOLOGIZE FOR SLAVERY, SO THERE!

St. George said...

PLUS...Edison, Ford, Carnegie, Jobs, and the Grateful Dead.

I could go on, but I have made my point.

Ann Althouse said...

I finally got around to watching the light-show-ballet-giant-props part of the show.

It was pretty good, a nice presentation of the country's long history, using abstraction to represent the suffering and paying appropriate and aesthetically sound attention to dance, music, and graphic art. The use of Malevich designs was great.

Ann Althouse said...

Example of the kind of Malevich design that was referenced: here.

traditionalguy said...

The Russians I have known are intelligent, well educated, skilled and determined to survive. Their courage should not be in doubt after Stalingrad.

Renee said...

According to the rules of the Twitter-universe, apparently it is OK to call someone or something ‘gay’ as a negative attribute if you're on the right side of the debate.

From the fifth Olympic Snowflake-Star not expanding on cue, to the constant American navel gazing over of gay rights/protests in Russia. Yes, I loved the opening ceremonies, but I don’t think of ballet or beautiful Russian architecture as ‘negatively’ gay.Everything about Sochi was gay, gay, gay in a negative sense!

Even the opening ceremony outfits for Germany was supposedly a protest in support of gays.... despite they fact they didn't even look that rainbow-y.

Really Google? I didn't realize there was any significant behind its logo yesterday, until someone brought it to my attention. The Olympics colors (blue, yellow, black, red, and green) represent all the flags of the countries participating. Pretty important.

Renee said...

Otherwise without the social commentary, I liked it.

We also enjoyed the countries coming out in order in accordance to the Russian alphabet.

Titus said...

According to the rules of the Twitter-universe, apparently it is OK to call someone or something ‘gay’ as a negative attribute if you're on the right side of the debate.

duh reny.

Fen said...

From the fifth Olympic Snowflake-Star not expanding on cue, to the constant American navel gazing over of gay rights/protests in Russia. Yes, I loved the opening ceremonies, but I don’t think of ballet or beautiful Russian architecture as ‘negatively’ gay.Everything about Sochi was gay, gay, gay in a negative sense!

Even the opening ceremony outfits for Germany was supposedly a protest in support of gays.... despite they fact they didn't even look that rainbow-y.


Yup. I think I'm beginning to understand ancient civ's prohibition of gays - they got tired of everything being turned in a gay issue.

Seeing Red said...

The krauts' outfit was in support of gay rights? What was the reasoning behind the hideously ugly 2012 outfit? Support babies?

The family thought they looked like snow cones. The only decent thing I will say about ours is that no one else wore a sweater, so that was nice. Burn them. Or it might be generational, the kids liked them.

chuck said...

And pour them down the drain like the remains of a failed experiment.

I can't find the exact quote, I think it was Orwell.

Seeing Red said...

First world issue gay rights. We flip switches or turn knobs without thinking and secure in our arrogance they'll perform. We have reliable heat light hot water 24/7. They're trying to feed their people. When I was there, they turned off the water for 2 weeks! for a city about the population size of Vermont & Wyoming combined because their pipes are above-ground and needed to be worked on. I saw a woman washing her clothes in the river, another carrying a yoke full of water.

We are soft, spoiled and certainly snobbish and forget we surpassed our supposedly betters European living standards around 1900. Russia was farther behind and the meet the new boss same as the old boss experiment put them farther behind. Put ins being pushed by the Muslims and the Chicoms. Russia deserves their day in the sun and Sochi looks beautiful.

Seeing Red said...

Heck when I was there, the '80 Olympic stadium was hosting the weekend flea market.

Seeing Red said...

And Rodnina looked great. I was wondering if she or her partner zeitzeff (sp) if he's still alive would participate.

Renee said...

They are going to tear down the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. The city suffers from wide income equality issues despite the city being home fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola.

Annie said...

Coke, whose CEO is pushing for amnesty for illegals. More cheap labor.

Jon Burack said...

I guess I think Ron Radosh has this right (he's a former Madison radical mugged by an especially personal reality many years back).

http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2014/02/08/putins-olympic-fantasy/?singlepage=true

I don't much care about the opening ceremonies of Olympics and so don't care that much about this one. Russia has a past, both Tsarist and Communist, that will haunt it for a very long time to come and who can blame them for not dealing with it in this setting. But it sounds to me as if they did not deal with it in the least. I cannot imagine Germany hosting the Olympics and doing all that much better. But they at least have owned up to the horrors into which they plunged the world as well as their own people. Russia has never come close.

MayBee said...

China isn't especially gay-rights capital of the world, yet we didn't have endless discussions about it during their Olympics. Is that some sort of racism? We don't expect non-Caucasian countries to have gay rights?

viator said...

Why isn't the hammer and sickle treated the same as the swastika? Does NBC treat them equally?

Why does communism get a pass when fascism gets vilified on a daily basis? Hardly a week goes by without a new film, novel, or TV show dramatizing the evils of fascism. When was the last time you saw a new work of art vilifying communism?

If the number of dead bodies is the measure then communism wins the gold medal for evil hands-down.

furious_a said...

Re: NBC Coverage.

I don't know about you guys but I'm fascinated with Bob Costas' Sochi-Bathroom-Water Pinkeye.

I plan to keep watching to see if it gets worse. Like that SNL Chernobyl skit where every time Gorbachev appeared on TV to reassure people his head-blotch got bigger.

furious_a said...

The Greeks had no winter games anyway. Why should they?

They also oiled up and competed nude! Titus?

Renee said...

@MayBee

America's views were different then.

Bobybuilder said...

Yet Ruggles reciting drew your sneer.

Seeing Red said...

Soft bigotry of low expectations. It's not just on education.

Alex said...

I was impressed. Especially with the coverup of the failed 5th ring.

kentuckyliz said...

Winter sports would be interesting if someone were playing defense. Of course hockey has that.

The shooting events like biathlon would be more interesting if the targets were moving...wild animals or stray dogs or something. You have to shoot five stray dogs before you can get up and ski some more. Hopefully not being chased by other stray dogs.