What Happened to That Weird Bear at Sochi That Everyone Loved?

With the Sochi Olympics over and Russian aggression in Ukraine underway, it’s worth pondering what happened to that cuddly bear waving, tearfully, goodbye to the crowds of useful idiots waving back at him. Recall that the opening and closing ceremonies featured powerful, three-dimensional images (villages, skiers, crescent moons) broadcast to audiences across the globe via tablet, smartphone or even television set (fast becoming the abacus of content consumption). Indeed, the Russians erected a special building used only for the mass manufacturing of said images. Why? Because the magician depends on misdirection — in this case, presenting this special building, this magic place, as the only special-effects venue. It’s a trick Putin deployed to make us believe the opening and closing Ceremonies were the hologram and everything else was real. In fact, the whole of this year’s Olympic Games were a hologram, with each athlete playing a part in Putin’s construct. Nothing was real. What was up with that moment in the opening ceremonies when those crazy Russian kids were be-bopping to 1950s music and going to malt shops in Buicks and Chryslers?  That’s the key to understanding the hologram of the Sochi Olympics.  It wasn’t just about Russians making you think they’re Americans. It’s worse. Putin sought to impose a retroactive continuity (retcon) on the whole tortuous slog of Russian history, all the way back to pre-Petrine Russia and the emergence of a Russian Empire. But retconning is a dangerous, difficult thing to do. Ask any comic book fan. Aficionados of the comic book know. Weird things pop up that betray the magic trick — like Russians be-bopping at maltshops during the Cold War (which never happened). Or, better yet, presenting the Soviet Union and Stalinism (marked by the absence of any likeness of Stalin himself)  as a necessary evil and historical precursor to Russia’s glorious present and future. How many of those writers celebrated in the ceremony were imprisoned throughout history? (And where was Solzhenitsyn?) Regardless, Russian art is imprisoned in the hologram of Sochi. It cannot escape. It has been confined to a special building that will make us think what the Kremlin wants us to think about this place that never was.

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