Dobryy vecher! That’s “Good evening,” more or less, in Russian.
Am here at the sparkling and slightly surreal Fisht Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which officially gets under way at 8:14 p.m. local time.
NBC will broadcast an edited version of the proceedings Friday night in the United States. But our crew on the ground here in Sochi will give an account, and ideally some historical context and artistic explication, as the pageantry unfolds.
Every modern Olympic Games serves as a vehicle of propaganda for the host nation. The 2004 Athens Games touted Greece as a tourist destination; 2008 Beijing Games highlighted China’s cultural history and emergence as the globe’s biggest marketplace; and the 2012 London Games asserted through pop music and cracking humor that Britain was great once again.
What face will Russia, the world’s biggest country, project to the world tonight?
Konstantin Ernst, creative producer of the Sochi Opening Ceremony, said that the goal was to introduce the world to Russia and its history through storytelling that balanced the “simple and straightforward” and “the artistic and metaphorical.”
He hinted that Russian history would be told in 18 episodes—one of which will be dedicated to the Russian Revolution, albeit in avant garde style.
The pageantry will unfold against the backdrop of unprecedented security concerns, domestic unease about the record $51 billion cost of the Sochi Games and protests, both silent and vocal, about Russia’s policies toward the LGBT community.
Look for Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare the Games open, as is the International Olympic Committee’s expectations of the host-nation’s head of state, and a novel approach to the traditional Parade of Nations.
As ever, much intrigue swirls around the question of who will be chosen for the honor of lighting the Olympic torch. At least one report predicts it will be Putin’s girlfriend, 2004 Olympic champion rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, 30. Putin, 61, is single, having divorced his wife last year.