For me, the best thing about the Olympics is always the human masala, the way in which you can see the most improbable cultural mixtures. And it's a personal disappointment to me that national broadcasters often miss a lot of the flavour of the local venue. Of course, it's important to cover your own national team. I can hardly begrudge the BBC's Clare Balding her pre-show chin wag with skeletongold-medalist Amy Williams. But what's the point of going all the way to Russia if you're only going to let Bob Costas be your guide? That's why it's vital, I think, to at least get a sampling of local media coverage as well as that from your own national broadcaster.
Here, then, is a roundup of some Ria Novosti (РИА Новости) coverage of the opening day. None of these videos are about any particular sport. Rather, they encapsulate a cultural moment. They help to answer the question, "What was it like to be Russian on Day One of the Sochi 2014 Olympics?" So all of these videos are in Russian. But don't let that stop you from watching. Even if you don't know your Дs from your Яs, you'll definitely get something out of these videos!
Robots: Gangam Style
Yeah, you heard that right. There's a robot loose in the Olympic Park that rocks the Gangam Style. Is it one step too far for an internet meme to literalise itself in the form of a robot and then terrorise unsuspecting Russians? You decide. (Fear not: this video isn't Gangam-centric; it shows you a number of sights in Olympic Park.)
Now let's look at an obviously Russian approach to the medal count. In Olympic Park, they've set up a huge video wall, with scaffolding at different levels. On the scaffolding are ballerinas who move to the images behind them, eventually making the current medal count appear to arise behind them. If you thought some aspects of the Opening Ceremonies weren't effective, this combination of technology and tradition might restore your faith!
Take a gander here at what the Olympic volunteers are wearing in Sochi. This video lets you closely inspect this new-but-old Russian look, which features intricate Vologda lace and a design inspired by 17th century Khokhloma wood paintings.
Sure it'd have been nice to have been inside the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies. But we can't all be so lucky. Here, then, is a view that NBC might not have paid much attention to: the people standing outside the stadium, looking at the official countdown clock. Though they weren't as comfy as their sitting compatriots, these standing Russians still obviously had a great time!