Technical problems? In the Olympics, there is no such thing.
During Friday’s opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, a set of giant snowflakes descended from the sky and morphed into the Olympic rings. It was a neat trick, except for one problem: The fifth snowflake malfunctioned and failed to transform into a ring.
The episode provided the first spectacular misstep for the Sochi Olympics and this memorable image, which — if the games proceed as badly as many journalists in attendance seem to expect (or secretly want them to) — will probably serve as an enduring metaphor:
But if you were watching the opening ceremony on Russian television, you didn’t get to witness the catastrophe. The broadcaster cut to rehearsal footage:
Organizers confirmed to the Associated Press that they had cut to prepared footage, which, it turns out, isn’t such an uncommon phenomenon at the Olympics. In 2008, the Beijing opening ceremony included some prerecorded footage, and during the 2006 Turin Games, famed singer Luciano Pavarotti lip-synced his aria. Organizers claimed the cold made a live show impossible.
But the fake footage is sure to feed the chorus of criticism that has already been directed at the Sochi Olympics. As I wrote earlier this week, the unfinished accommodations and ongoing construction projects feed into a long-standing Western image of Russia as a country filled with Potemkin villages. Friday’s television fake-out will only further feed the notion that Sochi is one big vanity display.
NBC will broadcast the opening ceremony in prime time Friday. “We will show things as they happened tonight,” the network said in a statement to the AP.
David Kenner is the Middle East editor for Foreign Policy.| Passport |