Researching the 2014 Winter Olympics: A stunning opening ceremony and an American gold medal

American Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal in Snowboard Slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. (Credit: Miami Herald)

American Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal in Snowboard Slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. (Credit: Miami Herald)

Despite many safety concerns, the opening ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympics games in Sochi, Russia, went off flawlessly. This is Russia’s first time hosting the winter games. Descriptions of killing stray dogs and shoddy facilities are matched with the thrill of seeing athletes compete. America’s own Sage Kotsenburg became the first gold medalist of the games, beating out competitors in the new event of snowboarding.

Opening ceremonies

An estimated 40,000 spectators were on hand to watch the two-and-a-half hour spectacle in Fisht Stadium. Thousands more fans viewed the ceremonies on big screens located throughout Sochi. According to RT.com the breathtaking high-tech performance was achieved with the efforts of more than 9,000 workers.

A February 7, 2014 post for RT.com titled, “2014 Sochi Olympics opening: Breathtaking Winter fairytale,” described the ceremonies. Beginning with a video introduction to the Russian alphabet, viewers were treated to scenes from Russian history matched with each letter. Athletes were introduced by country in the order of the Russian alphabet. On the floor of the stadium was projected an image of the globe that rotated to a new location when that country was announced.

After the hour-long parade of athletes, dancers, actors and singers transported the audience through Russian history. After performances from famed artists such as pianist Denis Matsuev and opera soprano Anna Netrebko, came the traditional lighting of the Olympic flame.

“Ice skating legend, Irina Rodnina and Soviet hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak, now Russian Hockey Federation president, carried the Olympic torch to light the cauldron, after the flame’s unprecedented journey all across Russia and beyond, to the North Pole, the cosmos, and Europe’s highest mountain peak,” the article said.

Politics and the games

This year’s games are fraught with less political turmoil than the 1980 games held in Moscow. At that time, because of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, then president Jimmy Carter urged U.S. athletes to boycott the games in protest.

In his book, “The Political Olympics: Moscow, Afghanistan, and the 1980 U.S. Boycott,” Derick L. Hulme Jr. discussed the symbolic importance of the games.

“Yet, while statesmen may feel the allure of utilizing the Olympics as a ‘quick-fix’ to a myriad political problems, they must realize that the same symbolic significance that has made the Games attractive for political purposes has fostered a strong reservoir of world sentiment that the Olympics should be excluded from the ‘petty,’ ‘transient’ concerns of international politics,” Hulme said.

Concern for gays

This year the controversy at the forefront of the games is Russia’s harsh policies against homosexuality. It has led many to suggest that a boycott may be called for. Yet the universal appeal of sports makes it difficult for even the most ardent gay supporters to advocate a boycott.

Paul Lewis explained the dilemma in his February 8, 2014 article for TheGuardian.com titled, “Gay sports fans torn between love for Olympics and call to boycott Russia.”

In describing how gay bar owners are torn as to how to voice their support for gays Lewis said, “Of course, individuals can choose whether they watch the Games in their private homes. But the dilemma has been more acute in gay bars, particularly those such as Nellie’s that fear that a no-Olympics policy could seem draconian – or just be bad for business.”

Tweets and snafus

In addition to the challenges of competition, it appears that the Sochi athletes also have to compete with the facilities in which they are housed. On Saturday, February 8, U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn tweeted about his escape from within a locked bathroom. For some reason, the door had locked from outside. Without a phone to call for help, the athlete was forced to destroy the door to make his escape.

The incident was described by Dave Sheinin in his February 8, 2014 article for WashingtonPost.com titled, “On Winter Olympics’ first full day, Sochi problems aren’t gone but are partially forgotten.”

According to Sheinin, “By Saturday evening, the tweet — with its photo of a smashed door that appeared to have been made of thin drywall and cardboard — was closing in on 18,000 retweets and Quinn had earned himself an appearance on NBC’s Today Show.”

Gold medal winner

Killing of stray dogs and shoddy facilities aside, it comes down to the events and the winning of the medals. On Saturday, February 7, 2014, American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg emerged from nowhere to become the first gold medalist of the games. Snowboarding slopestyle was one of 12 events making its Winter Games debut this year.

Read about the history of the Olympics on Questia.

What is your favorite Olympic event? Tell us in the comments below.

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