Sochi Winter Olympics: Russia to stick to its strengths for opening ceremony

Expect a lot of Russian classical music, a little ballet, a lesson in Russian history and a massive rotating map of the Earth spewing out athletes in tonight’s opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Creative director Konstantin Ernst has admitted, a little ruefully, that Russia can’t match the long history of globally-recognised pop music that made the London Olympics curtain-raiser such a toe-tapper.

But in a not-so-subtle dig at London’s opinion-dividing NHS sequence, Ernst promised there would be no part of the ceremony that would only make sense to the home audience.

Ernst, the suave director-general of Channel One Russia who headed Russia’s Eurovision creative team and boasts an endearingly native sense of dry humour, told a press conference on Friday he felt a “painful” burden of responsibility to give the world an “artistic, metaphorical and informative” spectacle.

The main ‘note’ would be to show what Russia is all about, he said.

There would be 18 episodes from Russian history – including the beginning of the 20th century and the Russian Revolution (which, he said would be done in the avant-garde art style that was “killed” by the revolution).

He possibly suffered from a less-than-flattering interpreter when he described the show as “straightforward, pedestrian metaphors”.

He also promised “innovations and novelties”.

In planning the 160-minute ceremony, which will feature 3500 fireworks, 3000 performers and take place in the purpose-built, massively expensive Fisht stadium in the coastal Olympic park, Ernst and his team went on a “mental journey back into the history of Russia,” he said.

“We wanted to show the main achievements of Russia,” he said.

Though – apart from Tatu, who will feature in the pre-show and in a ‘mash-up’ of music during the ceremony – Russian had little in the name of internationally-famous pop music.

“We definitely have something to boast about in classical music, arts and painting so that will be our main target,” he said.

Celebrated soprano Anna Netrebko will sing the Olympic anthem, and there will be a “small, perfect ballet show embedded into the ceremony performed by the best ballet dancers of Russia”.

The ceremony will also contain subtle references to the Moscow Olympics ceremony in 1980, considered the first modern spectacular.

Ernst said he wanted to speed up and make "more dynamic" the entrance of the athletes into the stadium, while still allowing each country’s viewers to see their own competitors as they arrived.

So he came up with the idea of projecting a giant, rotating digital map of the Earth onto the floor of the stadium.

In (Russian) alphabetical order, it would zoom in - Google Earth-style - to each country, and the athletes would emerge "like Greek heroes", he said – while contemporary, “rhythmic” Russian pop music would encourage them to dance on the way out.

He said he much admired the Queen and James Bond sequence in London, but warned people not to expect a similar sequence featuring Vladimir Putin.

"We shouldn’t be hoping too much for that,” he said.

However there would be surprises.Mr Putin will be involved, however – as head of state, his role is to declare the Games open.

The story Sochi Winter Olympics: Russia to stick to its strengths for opening ceremony first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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