Sochi 2014's Opening Ceremony has been a fantastic Cultural Lesson, in spite of all the bad press...

My kids and I loved watching the opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014's Winter Olympics. I had told them in the afternoon that we were going to watch this together at night, and they were excited but did not know what to expect. They had no idea what the Olympics were, so we started by going back to Greece and talking about Mount Olympus: home of the twelve Olympian Gods of the ancient Greek word. That story already was better than any Sonic video-game.

The ceremony started with an amazing theatrical performance of a young Russian girl portraying the feminine soul. She was the prettiest little girl I had ever seen. Russian women have this very unique kind of beauty: harsh and sweet at the same time. Suddenly, the little girl started reciting the Russian alphabet, each letter recalling a Russian writer, artist or landmark. My kids loved this. They were fascinated that those weird symbols were "letters" in a different language. Up to that moment, they had no idea that other ways of writing thoughts even existed. "Mom, look at that letter! What is that!? Look! Is that an upside down N?" I had never seen them so excited and engaged while watching TV. After that, we saw Putin, the ring leader, watching over the ceremony. My kids were shocked at how different he was from Obama, from the color of his skin, to his facial expressions. The Russian national anthem was followed by a much more pleasant music: Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. "That's nicer music mom" my kids observed. The music was supposed to end to a grand finale of five snowflakes transforming into the five Olympic rings. Unfortunately one of the snowflakes failed to open, and I guess that is now the new symbol of Sochi 2014. I have to say, I think this was pretty awesome. Why does everything have to be perfect all the time?

That closed snowflake represented human imperfection, and our need to continue learning and evolving. I think it was the best thing that happened throughout the ceremony. Failing is good. It's real. It's necessaryGTY_sochi_olympic_opening_ceremony_ring_fail_jef_140207_16x9_608

Finally, the athletes started marching, country by country. An amazing geography lesson for the kids. They would take turns reading the country names and guessing the flags. The first country they recognized was Argentina, where I was born, and I immediately felt a little bit of nostalgia mixed up with pride even though the team had very few members and looked very improvised. The second one they could guess was Brazil, where I lived for 5 years. It fascinates me how the love for a certain country or culture is passed genetically from generation to generation. My kids were jumping on the couch cheering from Brazil. Later, Venezuela came along, with only one single athlete. My kids best friend from the block, Daniela, is from Venezuela. And my older son got mad at this. "Mom this is so unfair! Why do they get only one guy?" I love his sense of justice.  Kids are natural at this. In the end, Team USA came along, and we all cheered to the multitude of athletes marching in their ugly Christmas sweaters!

team usa

The Opening Ceremony gave us much more than expected. It showed me and my kids that it is ok to fail, that people speak and write in many different ways but the message is always  very similar, that Russia is a very beautiful country rich in history and culture, that countries differ in customs, clothing and looks, and that each country is different and unique in its own way. But the main lesson learned was that when we all get together to celebrate sportsmanship, we all share the same feelings. And we all come from the same place.

- Photo credit  Consuelo Lyonnet

Consuelo Lyonnet

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