In Russian park, ceremony brings initial frustration, then national pride

By BARBARA BARRETT | McClatchy Foreign Staff | Published: February 8, 2014

SOCHI, Russia — For hundreds of visitors to Adler district’s Leisure Park on Friday night, the live presentation of the Olympics’ opening ceremony almost didn’t happen.

That’s because at first, police weren’t letting many people in. Spectators, many of them wearing badges showing they were volunteers or tourists with tickets to coming events, crowded against a makeshift fence or, exasperated, walked away angrily.

“Why can’t we go in? This is Russia, that’s why,” one woman said.

A man yelled out, “Sochi doesn’t want the Olympics anymore!”

It turned out, according to one of the officers, that there weren’t enough police to work the metal detectors at all four entrances, just another example of the ongoing problems faced with the 2014 Winter Olympics.

But eventually, with patience, those who wanted in, got in. They didn’t fill the outdoor park, but several hundred waved flags and cheered for their country’s big moment as the ceremony was broadcast live on a giant screen.

When Team Russia stepped out onto the stadium floor, the crowd roared.

When the Russian ballet danced to Tchaikovsky, they gasped. They cheered at the representation of the Statue of Minin and Pozharsky in Red Square. And when the Soviet hammer and sickle appeared, some sang in unison to the old anthems.

“This is very beautiful,” said Arkadiy Petrosyan, a 15-year-old from Adler who said he and some of his classmates were chosen to participate in the closing ceremony in two weeks. “Oh, it’s very great.”

Small children, bundled in snowsuits, sat on their parents’ shoulders or pulled on cotton candy. There were carnival games, though no one played. Adults stamped their feet as they jostled for hot tea. Many in the crowd wore knit hats with “Sochi” stitched on the side.

Sergey Kornierko, waving a Russian flag through much of the ceremony, said he had been worried about whether everything would come together. He worked for one of the companies that helped build parts of Olympic Park using recycled materials.

He is happy, he said, with how it turned out.


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