The Sochi Olympics officially opened yesterday in a ceremony The New York Times appropriately called an extravaganza. Parts of it – the ballroom dance, for one – were surprisingly good, much better than I expected. In another context, I would even say a masterpiece.
But I can’t shed the here-and-now. Potemkin* village-building can be a fine art but I’m not interested, thank you very much. There is no escape from marquis de Custine’s view of Russia as grand theater. Custine mistook the court of Nicholas I for Russia, but history has worked hard to vindicate his view
*Potemkin probably did not build faux villages for Catherine II – the couple were too close for such nonsense – but numerous others have perfected the art. “Misnamed” by no means equals “non-existent”.