Closing Ceremony

I am sitting here watching the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Games, and can’t help reflecting on the ceremony I got to witness in Torino, Italy in 2006 (during the commercial break, of course).

The view from my seats at the Torino closing ceremony in 2006.  It was totally awesome to have the rings in my sight the whole time... but the support pillars blocked the view of the projection screens, so I couldn't see what was going on in the actual program.

The view from my seats at the Torino closing ceremony in 2006. It was totally awesome to have the rings in my sight the whole time… but the support pillars blocked the view of the projection screens, so I couldn’t see what was going on in the actual program.

The view from the seats I purchased for almost $400, direct from the official Torino Olympics nearly a year in advance.  I spent over an hour complaining to the ushers, who were all volunteers and local Italians.  They sympathized, saying, "What do you expect for a stadium built by Mussolini?"

The view from the seats I purchased for almost $400, direct from the official Torino Olympics nearly a year in advance. I spent over an hour complaining to the ushers, who were all volunteers and local Italians. They sympathized, saying, “What do you expect for a stadium built by Mussolini?”

The thing that has struck me the most about the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Sochi is the way the producers considered the in-house audience in their design.  They did an excellent job of showcasing Russian culture and history, especially in terms of their excellence in performing and visual arts.  The coolest part of their set-pieces-hanging-from-the-ceiling, though, is that they were equally visible to the entire audience in that stadium.  The nose-bleed seats may have even gotten a better look at some of those details!  Of course, they added some little details, especially in the ballet sequences, that were meant for the front-row seats.  However, much of the production was available in equal measure to “the masses” there.  In fact, I wish that they would have given us at-home viewers more broad views rather than close-ups.

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I was eventually moved to these seats, after being advised by the ushers that their previous occupants had complained and been relocated, themselves! I much preferring the view of the back of the rings to the bottom of the balcony!

In Torino, by contrast, there were several portions of the show that were focused on one location on the floor.  In addition, there were some seats (notably mine!) that clearly had an obstructed view… which didn’t stop anyone from charging hundreds of dollars for the ticket.  There were some really cool things about being at the Closing Ceremony in 2006, but the actual production wasn’t part of it.  My Italian host kept texting me during the ceremony, telling me how awesome things looked (on TV where they were watching at home), and jealous that she couldn’t be there… I was so close to just leaving and going to watch it on TV!  But then… I got to see the athletes walk in right below me, and hear the cheers of the crowd.  When I returned to the States the  next day, my friends kept telling me their favorite parts of that ceremony – and I had to explain that I couldn’t see the floor, or any of the four TV screens in the stadium!  However, I had been part of the crowd that was dressed identically, that waved flags at prescribed times, and that generally celebrated International athleticism as one group of anonymous fans.

The line to get in to the venue took about an hour, and wound around the building.  We got a sneak preview of some of the set pieces!

The line to get in to the venue took about an hour, and wound around the building. We got a sneak preview of some of the set pieces!

 

The Olympic flame was located outside of the stadium, a couple of blocks away, but positioned such that those entering the stadium saw it in a central location

The Olympic flame was located outside of the stadium, a couple of blocks away, but positioned such that those entering the stadium saw it in a central location

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching the flags of the 2006 Olympics march in...

Watching the flags of the 2006 Olympics march in…

 

U-S-A!  Watching our athletes march in under the rings in Torino

U-S-A! Watching our athletes march in under the rings in Torino

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet despite the

Every attendee at the ceremony got a "goodie bag" and we all donned matching white ponchos and paper headdresses/masks, and waved our Italian flags on cue.  This guy next to me had true Italian spirit!

Every attendee at the ceremony got a “goodie bag” and we all donned matching white ponchos and paper headdresses/masks, and waved our Italian flags on cue. This guy next to me had true Italian spirit!

drawbacks of that ceremony, I can’t explain the powerful feelings of actually being present there.  The joy and enthusiasm of the athletes, the bittersweet celebration of the fortnight of competition, the sounds and (obstructed-view) sights of a world-class extravaganza were all amazing to witness.  I can’t even begin to imagine what the athletes were feeling during those moments.  We were all able to see the smiles and tears of the Sochi Olympians just a short while ago, simultaneously releasing the stress they’ve experienced and celebrating their victories and newfound friends.  Wonderful!

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