In Sochi, Ceremony Open You

Hello again, friends! How excited am I to be back to recap the Olympics with my dear friend Therese? Medium excited!

It’s not that I’ve stopped loving the pageantry of the Olympics, the endless hours of montage and recaps or even the sweet sound of Mary Carillo slurping loudly on borscht or being surprised by finding ever smaller dolls inside of slightly larger dolls. No, no. As Therese very passionately laid out yesterday, these particular Olympic Games are particularly problematic.

It’s something that’s been troubling me, not only as a dyed-in-the-wool, bleeding-heart liberal, but also as a someone who is super, super gay. While conscious of the troubles that persist in the region (including protestors being arrested), I also want to honor the athletes (including the many LGBT athletes) who will be competing. Sorry if a few political stories get dropped into your snarky television coverage. Blame Putin.

Of course, this is Tubular. So, you should know by now, that we don’t do the Olympics entirely (or even mostly) for serious. We don’t know literally a single thing about sports or sporting or anything of the sort. If you’re really into talking about stats and whatever, you’re probably not in the right place. If you’re super excited about Mary Carillo appearances and ridiculous outfits during the parade of nations, welcome! This isn’t about competing in the Olympics, it’s about watching the Olympics. Big difference. Huge.

Speaking of the parade of nations, how about that Opening Ceremony?  Let’s talk about it!

Before we literally talk about anything else, you need to pretty much drop everything and immediately watch this clip of the Russian Police Choir perform Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” that NBC made the completely ridiculous decision not to air.

The Olympics begin with a taped montage narrated by none other than Peter Dinklage. You may have thought they began Thursday, since there were all kinds of figure skating and snowboarders careening down mountains on their faces. Oh, no. THIS is the beginning. This video package. It’s mostly just images of elk and snow and ballet dancers while Tyrion Lannister tells us, essentially, winter Olympics is coming and there are a bunch of American athletes that, while we do not care about any of them now (and won’t even tell you their names),  we will be hearing SO MUCH about all of them over and over for the next two weeks.

Hey, look! It’s the President! And he is looking tired. He’s being interviewed by Costas, so this isn’t going to be any hard-hitting journalism. The President does more or less acknowledge that he did purposely chose LGBT athletes for the Olympic delegation. Also, things with him and Putin aren’t chilly, but Putin refuses to smile because that’s not really part of his “brand” or whatever.

Oh hey, Mary Carillo! So good to see you again! What’s that you say? You’re going to take us on a tour of Sochi with Maria Sharapova? Great. Sign us up. What will you teach us today? Russians like sour cream? You don’t say! In addition to that fun fact, we also go to the terrifying Russian circus, replete with terrifying Russian circus clowns. Thank you, Mary Carillo. You are a treasure.

No, but seriously now, we’re going to start. Just right after this sort of insane video that’s modeled after the Cyrillic alphabet, and it’s just a bunch of random Russian things that make absolutely no sense together. Dostoevsky! Nabokov! Periodic table! Tchaikovsky! Corn mowing machine! Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, who are totally useless and insufferable all evening, assure us all of this makes tons of sense to the Russians in attendance, which does nothing to help the NBC viewers in America that they’re talking to at all.

So then the show really starts! Really! There’s a little girl and she’s dreaming and she’s flying flying flying, because for some reason, we love to hoist up children on wires at this kind of thing. We also love LED floors. There’s always an LED floor.

She’s going “tell the story of Russia through a series of dreams because Russians see themselves as dreamers,” which is the epitome of Olympic nonsense, if I ever hear some. What does that even mean?

The dream becomes a nightmare when the big fancy snowflakes were supposed to transform into the Olympic rings. Instead, one stubborn snowflake went all Pussy Riot and declared “I don’t want to be a ring! I enjoy the company of other snowflakes!”

olympic ring fail sochi

The Internet reacted immediately:

olympic rings you had one job

olympic rings browsers.gif

olympic rings maroney

Then we moved into the most interminable part of any opening ceremony: the parade of nations. I’ll spare you most of the “This country wore this! That country wore that! Bermuda wore shorts!” (But if you’re really into that, you can check out the mini Twitter party myself and Tubular’s own Whit had during the show.) America’s sweaters were remarkably hideous. Some folks called them “teacher sweaters,” but, personally, I liked them better when they were on the back of nana’s couch. Other notable appearances at the parade of nations:

  • The nations came out in alphabetical order by the Cyrillic alphabet, so there were some funky moments in the order of the nations that may have thrown viewers for a loop if they didn’t hear Matt and Meredith remind them over and over.
  • All I want is GIF of this guy dancing. Please. The dancing cotton balls were the best.
  • Mexican skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe was born an aristocrat and was friends with Andy Warhol and those are only the second and third most interesting things about him! He also skis in this straight-up matador suit.
  • Germany wore a rainbow outfit, but they totally promise it has nothing to do with the gayz.
  • The Russian olympians came out last to a song by Russian pop group t.A.T.u. You remember them. They had that one song in the early 2000s, they dressed like school girls. Oh, and they also were aggressively marketed as maybe-probably-but-definitely-likely lesbians. Odd choice, all things considered.

After the parade of nation, it’s time to just blow right through all of Russian history, from the moment the land was settled straight through, well, I guess straight through t.A.T.u. We spend really little time on the prison camps and violence, and lots and lots of time on War and Peace and Swan Lake. So much time. So much ballet dancing. (And also the TROLOLOLO song. Seriously, is someone trying to punk Putin with the soundtrack tonight?) Regardless. The big takeaway here is that we sort of glaze over the murder and violence and other not awesome things with a nightmare train flying through the sky and some clowns punch-dancing along the floor. There! Complicated, tumultuous history addressed! Great job, everyone!

The best part of the night came in lieu of the traditional Olympic doves. Instead, there were ballet dancers (so much ballet) wearing crazy TRON-style light-up dreadlocks. And they spun and spun and spun in the shape of a dove and it was very pretty.

Then a bunch of athletes, including Sochi-native Maria Sharapova and maybe Putin’s mistress/baby-mama, ran around with the Olympic torch and then kept running and eventually two of them ran outside and the lit the flame and now, seriously, really, truly we are starting the Olympics. Yay?

I mean, on the one hand, so what, who cares, right? Do opening ceremonies really even matter? Sure, Matt Lauer will try and tell us that these ceremonies will be the host nation’s chance to prove something to the world, but what is that exactly? Is anyone going to be like, “Yes, you got all those children to dance in unison for 90 minutes. Let’s put you in charge of the world’s security and financial systems.” Maybe if I was throwing a ballet party I’d know who to call, but, come on. Let’s not overthink things.

At the same time, that stubborn snowflake aside, it was a pretty good show. Certainly not the mess Vancouver was. Folks will not be pleased at the cheerier look back through Russian history. Yes, it was definitely sanitized, but what did anyone expect? Communism doesn’t really lend itself to so much razzamatazz. I’m not here to make friends learn anyway. I’m more concerned about the present.

What did you guys think of the Opening Ceremony?

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site

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