Friday, February 7, 2014

Opening day jitters: the Fisht flake seen around the world (except Russia)

Snowflakes suspended from the ceiling of Fisht Olympic Stadium were supposed to join, then morph into the five Olympic rings and ignite fireworks during the Feb. 7 opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics. It was the mandatory showing of the rings part of the opening ceremony script and it didn't work out. There ended up being four rings and a snowflake.

In Vancouver, it was the first spectacular thing that happened on Feb. 12, 2010, when snowboarder Johnny Lyall flawlessly jumped through the rings and landed in the east end zone of B.C. Place Stadium to begin the 2010 Games opening ceremony.

While viewers around the world saw the hiccup by the Black Sea, Russian broadcaster Rossiya 1 switched to footage from the rehearsal. Some deft Olympic trickery. The coverup was worse than the mistake. 

The snowflake that stuck bore an uncanny resemblance to the BP logo. Ironically, after the oil company's Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, CEO Tony "I'd Rather Be Yachting" Hayward was transferred to the company's Russian joint venture TNK-BP. 

BP, by the way, sponsored the London 2012 Olympics and is a backer of the U.S. Olympic Committee

The ring malfunction drew instant comparisons to Vancouver, where all but one of the arms on the indoor cauldron emerged from beneath the false floor for the climax of the ceremony. Speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan was left standing while hockey's Wayne Gretzky, basketball's Steve Nash and skiing's Nancy Greene Raine stepped forward and did their duty to light the burner.  

It could have been far worse than embarrassing. Had the company that provided the cauldron not pondered problems ahead of time, it could have turned into a deadly, fiery mess. There had been no fire drill at B.C. Place for the two years preceding the Games

In Vancouver, athletes from India, the world's second most-populous nation, paraded in borrowed clothes. At Sochi, they came in under the International Olympic Committee flag. 

The IOC suspended the India Olympic Association because of governance problems stemming from corruption at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.  Delhi handed the baton to Sochi, where the Games are costing $51 billion and that big price tag is unofficially blamed on corruption. (Sochi officials told me in June 2010 during my visit to the ice cluster construction site that the bill would be $20 billion. Oops!) 

How about that cauldron, lit by Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Irina Rodina? It reminded me of the shape of the Montreal Olympic Stadium's tower. Once upon a time, the 1976 Summer Olympics were the poster child for a big event boondoggle. Montreal's Mayor Jean Drapeau gave a great "legacy" quote after the IOC chose his city: "The Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby."

And finally... Ideas for a nickname of the Sochi Olympic Stadium/cauldron combo, anyone? 

I propose "Fisht and Chip."

News and sports journalist Bob Mackin is author of the e-book, Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics, the only independent chronicle of how the 2010 Winter Olympics came and went. Available for 21% off via Smashwords through Feb. 23 (enter code CR34F). 

In the media? Click here to contact Bob for an interview.  

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