Winter Olympics 2014 opening ceremony review: Sochi ceremony confusing and spectacular in equal measure


The opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi acted as a reminder that these curtain raisers are rather daft, unless you can fathom what's going on.

When London hosted the summer Games two years ago, against many expectations choreographer Danny Boyle managed to put on a show to be proud of which celebrated the best of British - from its comedy via Rowan Atkinson, to the National Health Service and our industrial history. Even James Bond and the Queen made an appearance.

We all loved it and were patting ourselves on the back with our ability to put on such an emotive and spectacular show.

Yet the messages may have been lost in translation.

Despite a belief in many quarters of these isles that Britain is among the big boys on the world stage, most people around the globe were probably wondering what the hell NHS stood for. And why was some bloke with funny eyebrows having problems playing the piano?

As Russia opened the Winter Games in Sochi it was not always easy to follow.

Starting with an 'A to Z' of Russia's contributions to the world, things got confusing considering Russia has a different alphabet. For a start there are 33 'letters'. And there is no J.  One can only wonder how Russian commentators got around that one during the 2012 opening ceremony when they were explaining what James Bond was doing in Buckingham Palace.

After that it was time for that opening ceremony staple - a cute kid. As sweet as the little girl looked, she'll never rival Beijing's teeny-tot. It emerged soon after that particular ceremony that she was lip-syncing. The girl with the best voice was apparently deemed too ugly by organisers.

There was an alternative early talking point though. When the fifth of five giant rings failed to light up due to what appeared to be a technical fault, users of Twitter had their first mishap to gloat about.

One thing that was easy for the worldwide audience to share in was the tedium of the various teams entering the stadium. It's really incomprehensible that Olympic organisers persist with this. It just goes on and on. There are countries there that most people have never heard of. And why they have to emerge to repetitive euro pop is anyone's guess. Possibly the only people that enjoy this part of opening ceremonies (aside from the manically grinning athletes taking selfie of themselves) are whoever sells those little flags. Thankfully, thanks to the lack of snow in many countries (although that doesn't stop a lot of them - looking at you Jamaica) at least there are less countries than at the summer Games.

Thankfully it did end. But things quickly became confusing again. For some reason there were some giant horses being chased by what appeared to be a giant orange biscuit.

There was a big inflatable bull. And an inflatable teapot. And an inflatable cathedral. And then they all floated up into the air.

There was also a massive bear and at one stage the floor of the Fisht Stadium turned into a black and white depiction of the sea, complete with guys dressed as pirates.

The choreographer touched on Russia's difficult history in what appeared a sensitive and clever way - the sound of bombers during the World War Two section was easier to understand than any language or dance routine

Meanwhile on the 'humour' front, that bit was left to some old cars and three wheeler vehicles zipping through the stadium. That's right.

After some speeches it was the bit that provides some genuine intrigue - how would the cauldron be lit? For all the interest, it was pretty disappointing. Figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak lit it together in what an unimaginative domino of flames up to the cauldron itself.

And then is was over. At times genuinely spectacular, others utterly confusing. Russians probably loved it. But then they probably got it.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little