Putin seriously invested in the success of the Sochi Games

You really wouldn’t want to be the stage manager who messed up Sochi’s opening ceremony.

A very public human error meant that the Olympic symbol was last night represented by 4 rings and a snowflake.

Four rings and a snowlake Credit: Reuters

Unless of course you were watching on Russian TV where the director instantly switched coverage to a flawless pre-recorded segment from a dress rehearsal, so local viewers were none the wiser.

He is now being fast tracked into a key government post no doubt, whereas we haven’t heard from the hapless stage manager yet. I’m guessing we never will.

Despite that hitch, it was a spectacular night. Its ambition, much like London 2012’s, was to showcase Russia’s diverse history and it did it pretty well, while admittedly it skirted around some of its more contentious past.

But then this was Russia’s party and it could serve up what it liked.

Vladimir Putin sat pretty much stony faced throughout the ceremony Credit: Reuters

On our journey through the ages, most memorably we were treated to the genius of Tolstoy, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, reminding us all of the lasting cultural treasures Russia has shared with the world.

The Swan Lake section was breath-taking.

In contrast and seemingly without a hint of irony, given the controversy surrounding the treatment of the gay community here, we even heard from tAtu, the faux lesbian singing duo.

Where it differed from Danny Boyle’s extravaganza though was its lack of humour.

There was not an ounce of intentional self-deprecation on show and Vladimir Putin sat pretty much stony faced throughout.

Even this action man of a President wouldn’t be seen jumping out of a helicopter and parachuting into the stadium.

A bullet proof limousine in a heavily armed convoy was his chosen mode of transport last night.

How dull.

Fireworks in Sochi Credit: REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

But for Putin these Games are serious business. He has staked 30 billion pounds, his personal and his political reputation on them.

He has been at the heart of this project from its inception right up until today. Failure of any sort would reflect very badly on him.

Success and Sochi will be his greatest ever propaganda tool.

He is attempting to present Russia as a new and very modern place a country that has shaken off its Soviet sneer and is now greeting the rest of the world with a welcoming smile.

It is a difficult trick to pull off with the extent of the security surrounding these Games.

In the Olympic Park, thanks to the layers of security you have to pass through, you really do feel like you’re at the centre of a sanitised zone.

It’s safe, yes but soulless.

Once the sport kicks in, that might change.

Remember, before the London Games we talked endlessly about traffic chaos, about ticketing issues and most of all about security incompetence and a terror threat.

Putin has placed anti- aircraft batteries around Sochi’s coastal cluster but before you get too smug, so did we, on the top of flats in East London.

Opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Credit: REUTERS/Phil Noble

In London though once the opening ceremony was done and the gold medals were being dished out, those controversies were barely mentioned again and the following three weeks genuinely lifted a nation’s hearts.

So let’s wait a few days before we judge.

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