Sochi Olympics: Russian TV ‘fake’ opening ceremony

Russian TV cut to rehearsal footage during coverage of the opening ceremony. Picture: Getty
Russian TV cut to rehearsal footage during coverage of the opening ceremony. Picture: Getty
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RUSSIAN state television aired footage of five floating snowflakes turning into Olympic rings and bursting into pyrotechnics during the dazzling opening ceremony of the Sochi Games. The problem is, it didn’t happen.

The opening ceremony at the Winter Games on Friday hit a bump when only four of the five rings materialised in a wintry opening scene. The five were supposed to join together and erupt in fireworks. But one snowflake never expanded, and the pyrotechnics never went off.

But everything worked fine as far as viewers of Rossiya 1, the Russian host broadcaster, were concerned.

As the fifth ring failed to appear, Rossiya cut away to rehearsal footage. Viewers saw all five rings come together and the fireworks explode on cue.

“It didn’t show on television, thank God,” said Jean-Claude Killy, the French ski great who heads the International Olympic Committee coordination commission for the Sochi Games.

Yesterday producers confirmed the switch, saying it was important to preserve the imagery of the Olympic symbols.

The unveiling of the rings is always one of the most iconic moments of an opening ceremony, and President Vladimir Putin has been determined to use the ceremony to introduce the new Russia to the world.

Konstantin Ernst, executive creative director of the opening ceremony, told reporters at a news conference that he called down to master control to tell them to switch to the practice footage when he realised what had happened.

“This is an open secret,” he said, referring to the use of the pre-recorded footage. The show’s artistic director George Tsypin said the malfunction was caused by a bad command from a stage manager.

Ernst defended his decision, saying that the most important part was preserving the images and the Olympic tradition: “This is certainly bad, but it does not humiliate us.”

Glitches are not uncommon at Olympic opening ceremonies. There was a minor controversy over trickery involving the fireworks at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after it was revealed that some of the display featured pre-recorded footage.

Fireworks bursting into the shape of gigantic footprints were shown trudging above the Beijing skyline to the National Stadium near the start of the ceremony.

Officials confirmed that some of the footage shown to TV viewers around the world and on giant screens inside the stadium featured a computer-generated, three-dimensional image.