SOCHI: Fans may have paid $1,000 a ticket to see the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, but insisted it was value for money for a trip through Russia’s history and culture.
The show — which featured a ballet performance, opera singer Anna Netrebko and some impressive props flying over the spectators — was “superb, beautiful,” a group of Frenchmen praised as they exited the lit-up Fisht stadium.
“Good luck to whoever comes next and has to put on a better show than that,” said Evin Arnaud, who had decided with his buddies to travel to the Black Sea resort for a weekend to take in the Olympic atmosphere.
“It was so exciting, so nice,” chipped in Fukai Takayuki from Tokyo, who like his friend Kazunari Takishima was in full supporter mode with a characteristic Japanese headband on his forehead and a flag draped around his shoulders.
Takayuki already saw the opening ceremonies in Nagano in 1998 and in Salt Lake City in 2002 but “Sochi was the best. It was so amazing,” he told AFP.
The two friends paid $1,300 per person for a ticket to the ceremony and were in Sochi for the duration of the Games, with the figure skating and freestyle moguls on their programme, they said.
Friday’s ceremony retraced thousands of years of Russian history culminating in massive figures with a hammer and a sickle gliding into the arena above the crowd.
“I was kind of surprised by that. But it’s part of the country’s history so I thought it was appropriate,” said Paul Davis from Detroit in the US, whose daughter is competing in the figure skating.
Stephen Gough and Bryce Holbech from the US team also sang the organisation’s praises between posing with fans in their recognisable stars-and-stripes Ralph Lauren outfit.
“Russia did a great job of showcasing a bit of their history, it was impressive,” said Holbech.
“This is their party so they can do what they want with it.”
Every host nation likes to draw on its culture for its opening ceremony, and this was also the case for the last Olympics in Vancouver, he added.
The only complaint from spectators was the fact that the Olympic torch was led outside to light the cauldron, so that the near 40,000 spectators in the stadium could only watch on large screens.
The fireworks could also be appreciated mostly by those outside.
For Chris Shibutani, another athletes’ dad, the ceremony did contain a dose of irony.
“The bit about the Communist era was choreographed by an American: communism and its glory done by an American!” he chuckled.
For the French friends, the host nation put on a show of force.
“Russia showed its power,” said Daniel Frenet.
The display of Communist symbols “was a way of saying: ‘look we were also successful in building our country’.”
During the athletes’ entrance, the crowd was noticeably louder when the name of a former Soviet nation was called, added Jerome Henry.
“But they weren’t that worked up when it came to (President Vladimir) Putin. We actually heard a few people boo.”