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2008 & 2014 Olympics Opening Ceremonies’ Controversy

The Olympics opening ceremonies are extraordinary events that must showcase the hosting country’s traditions, uniqueness, and hospitability. However, some ceremonies stand out not because of their beautiful shows, but due to controversial events. Beijing Olympics in 2008 and Sochi Olympics in 2014 had important issues during their opening ceremonies connected with environmental pollution and gay rights respectively.

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The 2008 Olympics that took place in Beijing got caught in the environmental controversy that occurred during the opening ceremony, where the audience observed a cloud of significant size hanging over the stadium. As it was discovered later, the Chinese government decided to control the weather during the 29th Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. The pollution in Beijing caused the city to submerge into smog. Therefore, to guarantee clear skies and eliminate the risk of raining on such an important day four hours before the Olympic Ceremony, the organizers gave an order to start firing rockets into the sky. They wanted to ensure that no rain clouds would be hanging above the National Stadium. During the Grand Opening, over a thousand rockets were launched to disperse the rain clouds to eliminate the possibility of unfavorable weather (Coonan). Such actions drew attention to the environmental issues surrounding this industrialized city.

Even though the organizers were aware of the pollution issues, little action was taken to resolve them. It would have been a smart strategical move to organize the Olympic Games around the theme of environmental preservation, and, as a result, raise awareness of one of the most concerning issues in China, instead of ignoring and denying it.

Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 faced an even greater controversy than China in 2008, which resulted in many world leaders refusing to attend the event. Not long before the big event, a new law adopted by Russia that banned the promotion of homosexuality in the country was recognized as repression of gay rights. The Olympic committee stated that it goes against Olympic beliefs of celebrating sportsmen strength and integrity, to which president Vladimir Putin responded that homosexuals would be welcome in Sochi for the Olympics, then adding: “Just leave the children in peace” (“Sochi 2014: Gay Rights”).

During the time the Russian Olympic team was marching to the Olympics, they played the song “Not Gonna Get Us”. The band – TaTu was well-known in the early 2000s for being criticized for their position on gay rights. Russia sent a message stating that they are a superior country and no one can influence their political choices, as well as refusing to accept the modern approach to sexuality.

Knowing the majorly controversial political situation, the Olympic Games could have been less focused on Russian traditions and their glory, but rather on a more globalized theme like world peace. Such an approach would have shown the world leaders that Russia is at least trying to become more globalized and deviate from their traditional views.

Concluding, the Olympic Games opening ceremonies frequently serve as platforms for political statements or unsuccessful attempts of showing the glory of the country. The example of China has shown that there is a need for more global methods of solving such significant problems. Russia decided to abandon all Olympic and European beliefs to show their superiority, rather than unite with the world for a better cause.

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Works Cited

Coonan, Clifford. “How Beijing Used Rockets to Keep Opening Ceremony Dry.” The Independent, 2011.

“Sochi 2014: Gay Rights Protests Target Russia’s Games.” BBC News, BBC, 2014.

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