Pack up your medals and your skis and your skates, grab your parkas and your stray dogs and don’t forget your eye medication back at the garbage hotel: after 18 endless days of Games, it’s time to close the Olympics and go home. But first, let’s wave some flags around, take a little nap during a lesson on ballet, and extinguish the Olympic flame with some terrifying giant robot tears. The closing ceremonies! Let’s get this spectacle started!
Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Vladimir Pozner serve as our guides through the ceremonies, helpfully illuminating the event with insights like, “There are a lot of Russian writers,” and “I was at the opening ceremonies and saw the dancers.” The trio explain that there is a fancy floor that can look like the ocean or outer space — something that just completely dazzles Cris Collinsworth who may or may not be drunk again; they also inform us that the Olympics are “uplifting”; that tonight’s ceremonies are called “Reflections of Russia,” and are meant to show the world how Russia views herself: a magical land full of ballet, novelists, whimsical upside down houses, and giant robo-bunnies, as opposed to the gay-hating, dog-hating, vodka-swilling authoritarian nightmare that we might, for some silly reason, believe it to be.
The ceremonies begin with that little girl from the opening ceremonies who was hoisted up into the rafters of Fisht Stadium and swung around for a while. She seems to have found a couple of friends somewhere along the way and convinced them to take a ride in a flying boat with some clowns. KIDS: DO NOT ACCEPT RIDES FROM CLOWNS IN FLYING BOATS. Vladimir Pozner explains that clowns are heroes in Russian culture, that the court jester is the only one who can speak truth to power and all that. Somehow I doubt these clowns are going to climb down from this flying boat and deliver a few good zingers about Ukraine to Putin.
Hundreds of dancers in those foil jackets they wrap around marathon runners and victims at crime scenes come running out onto the floor and I think are supposed to look like schools of fish? Maybe? I don’t know something about a yin yang symbol and an infinity symbol and then some angels with flashlights are lowered down from the ceiling, and Pozner is not explaining any of this. DO YOUR JOB, VLADIMIR. Instead, Cris Collinsworth yammers about how the floor made him “seasick” (that’s the vodka, Cris) before babbling again about how he was “in the bowels” of the stadium during the opening ceremonies, and he saw the dancers “jumping into each other’s arms” celebrating that they “did what they set out to do” and that this was “their moment.” Cool story, bro.
And that’s when the foil jacket people assemble into the shape of the Olympic rings and recreate the opening ceremony’s snowflake failure.
“IN RUSSIA, WE LAUGH AT SELF. HOW YOU SAY IN AMERICA: LOL.”
Well played, Russia. (Although it is worth remembering that this is not the first time a country has made fun of opening ceremony mistakes in their closing ceremonies: Canada did something similar in their closing ceremonies, making fun of the failure of their ice phalluses to rise during the opening ceremonies.)
After the Russian anthem, there is the endless parade of flags and athletes who all march into the stadium together. Sorta. I mean, they all stick with their home countries, but the nations aren’t called out one by one, so I guess this is supposed to be symbolic.
McDonald’s Our announcers inform us that Russia won the most Gold medals this year: 13. A little Wikipediaing leads me to learn that Russia, in fact, took the most medals overall with 33. America came in second, with 28 medals, but fourth behind Norway (NORWAY!!!) and Canada in Golds. Whatever. We like Bronze medals better anyway.
Once the athletes finally settle into their seats, we carry on with the closing ceremony’s “Reflections of Russia” nonsense, which will be a tribute to Russian culture. It starts off strong enough with a celebration of Russian art, specifically Chagall. While Chagall’s art is projected on the floor, a sun and clouds and those flashlight angles float around the ceiling, crossing paths (entirely too slowly) with a floating upside down village. Cris Collinsworth, he is confused. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? he cries out. WHAT IS HAPPENING? I DON’T UNDERSTAND! Vladimir Pozner explains Chagall’s art to Cris Collinsworth like he’s a third grader, that Chagall “saw the world differently, and painted people flying upside down, making love upside down, kissing upside down … he had that view of the world.” “I dig that!” Cris Collinsworth chirps in response. Let me remind you: NBC flew Cris Collinsworth to Russia, and paid him cash money for this.
Next is a celebration of Russian ballet. Which, surprisingly, features a bunch of ballerinas. Vladimir Pozner, however, is less interested in the ballet and calls our attention instead to the fact that the chandelier is supposed to be reminiscent of chandeliers at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters. Cris Collinsworth announces that the chandelier reminds him of being at “The Phantom of the Opera.” Neither Al Michaels nor Vladimir Pozner have the heart to tell him that he is an idiot or to put down the vodka.
NBC then opts to also show us the tribute to Russian writers which mostly involves a bunch of portraits of writers whose names we might know, but whom no one actually knows by sight. I MEAN COME ON, can you picture what Anton Chekov looks like? No, you can not. (Tolstoy maybe, but the rest? Honestly?) There is also a whole lot of paper swirling around the stage in a manuscript tornado which just makes me anxious about who is going to clean this mess up before the next part of the ceremony takes place.
Each of these performances take FOREVER, by the way, like hours. Hours and hours and hours of my life that I shall never get back. And so I guess we should count our blessings that NBC decided to skip over the tributes to Russian composers and Russian circuses, although I suspect the circus one was more exciting than watching a bunch of paper swooshing around, making a mess.
The Olympic flag is finally lowered and handed over to the mayor of Pyeongchang where we will be Olympicking in 2018, all the while Cris Collinsworth babbles about how this one time he got yelled at by a Russian cop at the airport, and it really scared him, but it turns out he had just dropped his wallet and he wasn’t being gulagged after all. WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT? WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE CONFISCATE THE VODKA FROM CRIS COLLINSWORTH?
The South Koreans then have an opportunity to give the world a glimpse of what their Olympics will be like in Pyeongchang. Judging by this performance, 2018 will be full of weird 12-stringed instruments that represent the 12 months of the year (???), birds, ink stains and light-up trees. Needs more K-Pop and kimchi.
Speeches, speeches, speeches, and the President of the IOC finally decrees these Games closed, and demands that the “youth of the world” assemble in Pyeongchang in 4 years. Time to extinguish the Olympic Flame!
And that’s when things get weird.
Some giant mirrors are wheeled out from one side of the stadium, while from the other side of the stadium, GIANT TERRIFYING NIGHTMARE ROBOT ANIMALS INVADE. AIIIIIEIEEEEE!!! RUN! RUN, RUSSIANS AND OLYMPIC ATHLETES! A GIANT ROBOT BEAR AND A GIANT ROBOT RABBIT ON SKIS AND A GIANT ROBOT CHEETAH OR LEOPARD OR JAGUAR OR SOMETHING, THEY ARE HERE TO EAT YOU ALL! FLEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Instead, the children from earlier in the program who apparently have no sense of self-preservation, run towards the terrifying animal Transformers and climb onto their skis and feet where they proceed to rub the robots inappropriately. Get your hands off that robot rabbit’s crotch, little girl, what are you even doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
The oversized robot Snuggle Bear rolls over to the mirrors where he regards himself — and Pozner explains that this is “how Russia sees herself.” AS A GIANT ROBOT BEAR? WHAT IS THIS CULTURE?
Eventually, all three terrifying robot creatures roll over to a flaming cauldron — because this whole thing hasn’t yet been quite nightmarish enough — where the robot bear colossus reminisces about the time in 1980 when his predecessor, Misha of the Moscow Olympics, flew off into the hereafter on a handful of helium balloons.
Giant Terrifying Robot Bear is then prodded by Giant Terrifying Robot Leopard (Ocelot? Lynx?) to get on with it already, blow out the flame before a bunch of Russian Cossacks come storm the stage and start horsewhipping everyone. IT’S TIME TO GO, ALREADY, GIANT ROBOT BEAR. And so the Giant Nightmare Bear exhales … something … while a giant blue tear runs down his gargantuan robot cheek.
Cris Collinsworth deals with his existential angst brought on by this hellscape by burbling nonsensically about how the Olympics give you a chance to meet and talk to people you otherwise wouldn’t. Whatever gets you through this nightmare, goofball, how about you do another vodka shot. In fact, let’s all do vodka shots. I could use one or seven right about now.
Hundreds of children then run onto the stage and sing something with the giant robot bear as yellow confetti falls down over them and Russian athletes cry for some reason (terror). And outside, FINALLY, the flame in the phallus cauldron is extinguished, and we are officially done here.
Thanks for the horror show, Russia! It was really … something. And as for you, Rio, better get working on your giant robot parrots and monkeys, or whatever, you’ve only got 18 months before The Summer Olympics begin.
See you then, my little blini! Добрый путь!
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.