Much was said about the politics surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But one instance of international media’s cultural materialism created a miniature controversy during the Opening Ceremonies. The nations of the world saw a display of pageantry that was for the most part impressive, save for one moment. At the beginning of the opening ceremony, five snowflake-shaped structures rose to the top of the stadium and were supposed to open to form the five Olympic rings. However, a technical mishap prevented the fifth and final ring from opening, leaving the image of four rings and a small snowflake. Commentators in the United States made the mishap known on NBC‘s broadcast feed, but in the Olympics’ home country, it was like it never happened.
The Olympic ring mishap, as seen on NBC in the United States (image courtesy of ABC News):
Russians, however, were not afforded the ability to see what actually happened during this sequence, as state-run media outlet Rossiya-1, the station that had the rights to the Olympics in Russia, immediately cut away to rehearsal footage of the rings successfully opening amidst a flurry of fireworks. Because very little independent media exists in the Russian Federation, the Kremlin is able to broadcast anything they deem appropriate, and not broadcast things they believe are against the State. The Huffington Post confirmed that Rossiya-1 producers admitted they cut away from the live feed in an article the day after the ceremonies.
The rehearsal footage that Rossiya-1 cut away to, showing the rings successfully opening in a mostly empty stadium (Image courtesy of the Huffington Post and the Associated Press):
Olympic Opening Ceremonies are seen as a showcase of the host country, and many believe Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to use the Ceremonies as a way to exhibit Russia in the post-Soviet era to the rest of the world. However, when the ceremonies had a glitch, TV producers who are essentially on Putin’s payroll didn’t allow the actual footage to be shown to the host country. The Huffington Post article about the mishap and Russian TV’s coverage also pointed out several glitches at the 2008 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony in Beijing, China, including part of the broadcast not actually happening in real time, but a 3-D animation of the area surrounding the stadium was shown instead. They also pointed out that vocal performances in the Opening Ceremonies in both Beijing and Turin, Italy in 2006 were pre-recorded and lip-synced, so that each performance could go off without a hitch, much like the lip-syncing controversy at this year’s Super Bowl.
This is one of the many ways that state-run media can censor things that go against their agenda, and many other instances are present, also in Russia, which I will touch on later this year.