Atlanta vs. Sochi: Olympic opening ceremonies

Atlanta's "yeehaw" to the world. (Image from YouTube video)

Atlanta's "yeehaw" to the world. (Image from YouTube video)

It’s fun to make fun of Russia, but I have great respect for their people, literature, music, science and pretty much everything not directly related to state planning.

And without the 20 million or so Russians that died in WWII, I might be typing this in German right now. OK, probably not, but the war would have taken more American lives.

When it comes to opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Russia, despite a snafu with a balky illuminated snowflake, may have Atlanta beat. In fact, the snowflake snafu was doctored to seem like it didn’t happen when shown on Russian TV.

If you recall (and if you don’t, please watch this video or click through these photos), Atlanta’s opening ceremonies in 1996 featured pickup trucks and cheerleaders. You can see photos of the Sochi games here.

In Sochi, they went with women wielding red spears atop red motorcycle sidecars.

I quit liking monster trucks when I was 13, but I can still appreciate a woman with a weapon.

In Atlanta, we had giant weird puppets. In Russia, they had giant heads with sickles and hammers.

In Atlanta, we had Bill Clinton. Russia has shark-riding President Vladimir Putin.

In Sochi, they lowered what looked like a colorful onion-domed village to the floor from the roof. Atlanta didn’t even have a roof! The ceremony took place in the soon-to-be destroyed Olympic Stadium (which became Turner Field).

In Atlanta, we had children dressed like Olympic rings. Russia has a volcano.

In Atlanta, we had Izzy. Russia has cute, stuffed animal-looking robots.

Atlanta had some nice fireworks, but they were so big in Sochi the Red Army must have been in charge.

What did Atlanta have going for it?

In Atlanta, it was summer and snow would have been impossible.

In Atlanta, we had a trembling Muhammad Ali light the giant Olympic torch. Russia had someone who tweets fake pics of the Obamas with a banana.

OK, maybe our opening ceremony was better.

What do you think?

34 comments Add your comment


February 7th, 2014
3:19 pm

Don’t know why all the athletes and foreign press are so upset over the yellow water coming out of the faucets. Maybe the Russians are more into recycling than we are.


February 7th, 2014
3:29 pm

Hey George, here are some difference between Atlanta and Sochi that you missed:

In Atlanta, we have the freedom to be who we are with out the government throwing us in jail. In Atlanta, we live in a democracy and not what amounts to a totalitarian dictatorship. In Atlanta we find homes for our dogs wandering the streets, we don’t poison or shoot them. In Atlanta, we were able to put on Olympic Games that did not bankrupt our entire nation’s economy and cost more than all former Summer Olympics combined. In Atlanta, we did not have a torch lighter who tweeted horrible racist pictures of President Obama. In Atlanta, we did not build Olympic facilities that wrecked our environment for years to come.

Sure Russia may cobble together a nice opening ceremony, but I prefer to live in a country that does not walk over its citizens in order to do so.

George Mathis

February 7th, 2014
3:43 pm

CC – those are valid points, but this blog is about the artistic merits of the opening ceremonies … not democracy vs. state control. I don’t think they even allow blogs like this in Russia. I will be rooting for the American athletes, especially the hockey team.

Juan Samarach

February 7th, 2014
3:55 pm

Atlanta was most average, Sochi can do no worst.


February 7th, 2014
3:55 pm

George, they’re all different and reflect the hosting country’s culture. I’ve loved all of them for their imaginative creations of what they want their own culture to reflect, and the times they are held in. I, too, respect Russia’s creative plans for putting their best foot forward, and am disappointed for them that it did not go off without a few visible technical glitches.
As for Atlanta’s pickups and cheerleaders – I LOVED the chrome pickup trucks as just what they were – a Southern U.S. satirical response to the continual put downs by the rest of our country as redneck know nothings – the fact that others used it as proof of our backwardness just makes us laugh at them more for their utter misunderstanding of our basically sophisticated sly sense of ironic humor. Billy Payne is a genius and the ACOG planners all are great folks with a solidly grounded sense of the values and cultural awareness of what others still think of this region and it’s savvy marketing of what the public wants – a fun time of hootin’ and hollerin’ their pride in their own backyard. Even if the ceremony celebrations are the only part of the Olympics that EVERYONE is interested in. And since we are Atlantans, Southerners, and accustomed to everyone laughing at us, to join in by giving them the chance to laugh again, we will always be the best to us. It was a gift. You’re welcome. :)


February 7th, 2014
4:47 pm

So Russia is spying on visitors taking showers…at least their government is up front about their surveillance, unlike ours who prefer to deny, deny, deny…until Snowden blew the lid off their arses!


February 7th, 2014
5:10 pm

“In Atlanta, we did not have a torch lighter who tweeted horrible racist pictures of President Obama”

So Obama is hated around the World? No surprise.


February 7th, 2014
5:13 pm

Not really surprised but the Opening Ceremonies did not include any reference to the famous Russian ballet companies and dancers. They gave us Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle, etc. Many productions still use some of the original choreography. When I hear all the negativity about Russia, it seems to conflict with their great heritage. For example, Joy Womack, an American dancer who joined the Bolshoi Ballet, was asked to pay $10,000 for one part in one ballet. She quit the Bolshoi and went public with the story. She joined another ballet company in Moscow but everyone worries about her safety. What’s happened to Russia?


February 7th, 2014
5:20 pm


Where do start? Your comments represent a world view,a paradigm of an average american.I might add a southern american.A brainwashed american,who is constantly,from the early age is being fed a bunch of propaganda.I’ll address your comments point by point.

1)”In Atlanta, we have the freedom to be who we are with out the government throwing us in jail. In Atlanta, we live in a democracy and not what amounts to a totalitarian dictatorship”.

Where have you been for the last ten years or so? Haven’t you heard about about police brutality in this very city? A gay bar raid comes to mind right away,for example.Haven’t you been watching the news about how invasive the government of this “blessed” country has become especially after 9/11? Aren’t you aware that all of your rights and freedoms went right out of the window with multiple laws,patriot act in particular.Haven’t heard about millions of americans being spied on with out any warrants? I could give you dozens and dozens of examples,that this country has become a police state.So there goes your first argument.

2)”In Atlanta we find homes for our dogs wandering the streets, we don’t poison or shoot them”

You’re just not able to find homes for hundreds,may be thousands of homeless who wander the streets in this city.And in Atlanta you don’t shoot dogs,you shoot people,Virtually everyday,the front page of this newspaper looks like a report from a war zone.with dozens of people,often children,being gunned down…

3)”In Atlanta, we were able to put on Olympic Games that did not bankrupt our entire nation’s economy and cost more than all former Summer Olympics combined.”

First of all, most of the world agrees that the atlanta games were one of the worst in history,with the crook bill campbell and his buddies running the show.Multiple complaints about horrible accommodations,uncontrolled street vendors etc.And news flash-this country is already bankrupt with a national debt of 17 trillion dollars.

“but I prefer to live in a country that does not walk over its citizens in order to do so…”


Franz Breuner

February 7th, 2014
9:51 pm

Wizz I fart bigger than you.

Chris Salzmann

February 7th, 2014
10:15 pm

Russia’s is definitely better. Much more cultural………………..

Anything that stands out from the Atlanta Olympics, the chrome truck captioned above and the torch lighting ceremony where the final journey of the flame to light the Olympic Torch was through pulleys and string (that’s what it looked like). That was after Barcelona where the Archer lit the flame with a lit arrow. Very hard act to follow.

Atlanta really dropped the ball and it’s sad that the above were the only highlights most people remember.

Chris Salzmann

February 7th, 2014
10:18 pm

Wizz, Get off your high horse. Vancouver and Lillyhammer were cool too and those are free societies. Considering the NSA and Patriot Act issues, the “Land of the Free” ain’t so free anymore.


February 7th, 2014
10:35 pm

Jizz Salzman is a-

Summer school hero.

glenn kempf

February 8th, 2014
12:07 am

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. Relax and enjoy the games everyone.


February 8th, 2014
12:31 am


You’ve inspired me tonight and forever.

Jack ®

February 8th, 2014
8:45 am

If you like your red spear, you can keep your red spear.


February 8th, 2014
9:23 am

In Atlanta we had street vendors who made the Olympics look like on big flea market; we had bus drivers who could not find Lake Lanier with a busload of reporters; and a bomber who thought blowing up people at a concert was an Olympic event and a 911 operator who did not know how to direct police to the Olympic park. So how does that compare to unfinished hotels, open manholes, yellow water and a snowflake that will not open into an Olympic ring? I would hand it to the Russians so far.


February 8th, 2014
10:12 am

Yep, Those Parading Pick-up Trucks with CHEERLEADERS with TOO MUCH MAKE- UP and BIG HAIR was Creative and Imaginative.



February 8th, 2014
11:16 am

Can’t speak to Rodnina’s recent behavior, but it was so nice to see Vladislav Tretiak out of the Russian doghouse after 34 years. Russia pulled the world’s best goalie after the first period in 1980 and we went on to beat the unbeatable Russian machine that year and ultimately take the gold medal in hockey (the “Miracle on Ice”). Russia took home the silver that year.

The Geezer

February 8th, 2014
11:26 am

Knew the Atlanta Olympics were going to be a bust when the folks from New Mexico called to order Olympic tickets and were told that they were not accepting orders from a foreign country. That snafu was representative of the Atlanta Olympics as a whole. It was like the Gwinnett County Fair with bigger fireworks.


February 8th, 2014
11:37 am

A truly world-class opening ceremony—to the chagrin of the liberal mainstream media. And presumably choreographed without homosexual help.

Yet another myth shattered!


February 8th, 2014
11:43 am

EdUktr @ 11:37 am – Yep, the Best KGB propaganda the Western World has ever seen in (1) One Hour…. and You Loved it!

Mission Accomplished…..

Chris Salzmann

February 8th, 2014
2:57 pm

I think EdUktr needs to come out of the closet. Gays really seem to be on his mind. Someone so obsessed with Gays has to be in the closet.


February 8th, 2014
2:58 pm

I wanted to take a specific moment to complement you on your historic accuracy.

“And without the 20 million or so Russians that died in WWII, I might be typing this in German right now. OK, probably not, but the war would have taken more American lives.”

I hear that “if it wasn’t for such and such we’d all be speaking German or Japanese” crap all the time. Yes, bottom line is that thanks to Hitler’s misguided move to invade the Soviet Union (when will tyrant ever learn) and the deaths of 20 million Russians and countless Germans, there was never any way the Germans would have been able to win the war, with or without US involvement. And certainly no way they ever would have been able to invade and defeat the US on our soil (a rifle behind every blade of grass is how the wise Japanese leaders referred to us).

As for the Olympics, it is tragic that so much government waste occurs to pay for these TV spectacles. The citizens can’t afford it, and comparisons between the opening ceremonies for the Summer and Winter games don’t help. The Summer generally have participation by every country on earth (or nearly every) while the Winter are much smaller. One would expect and should expect a smaller event.

Frankly Wizz has the right points to make on all this. Both Russia and the US are totalitarian regimes with entrenched police states where freedom is what the government says it is. That is what every American should be thinking about and working on instead of worrying whose opening ceremonies were more spectacular.


February 8th, 2014
3:02 pm

Kittywells – did you sleep though the whole ballet segment? Swan lake, War and Peace reference, all the ballet dancers??? Go back and watch it again. Maybe you fell asleep and didn’t realize it. NBC’s insipid commentators even mentioned that it was the CZARs that began ballet dancing and popularized it in Russia. I know I didn’t hallucinate this.


February 8th, 2014
4:24 pm

Chris Salzmann @ 2:57 pm – I am inclined to agree with your opinion on Un- EdUktr. Not only he would be considered HOMOPHOBIC in addition to being a Dye in the WOOL, Hood wearing Racist.

For when he is not attacking Gays, his First Hatred is People of Color followed by Liberals. But If you were to ask him if he were a CHRISTIAN, He could spout Bible verses like Billy Graham.

Most times I ignore his comments but I do respond from time to time to illuminate his Blind Ignorance and lack of intelligence. Why Fear any Terrorist from the Middle East when we have such hatred among US everyday?


February 8th, 2014
4:38 pm

My money is on the Russians in the drinking events.


February 8th, 2014
6:23 pm

I still cringe whenever I think of the pickup trucks in the ‘96 opening ceremony. What an embarrassing, stupid bush league stunt that was.


February 8th, 2014
11:02 pm

Still prefer to blame “whitey” for the fact you’re unemployed and unemployable, Bernie?


February 8th, 2014
11:16 pm

EdUktr @ 11:02 pm – as Your Mrs have often said to Me…You are Cheap and do not measure up. she keeps promising to get a check from YOU. I told her we cannot continue on this way. She always starts to CRY and I have Pity for Her. Help Us out will ya…Do not be a LOSER all of your LIFE.
Ask her about me…then watch her Eyes closely…they will glimmer! Like they use to for you. Now they just LQQK away and Down. ever wonder why?

Don't Tread

February 9th, 2014
12:01 am

The dude responsible for the non-morphing snowflake is probably seeing plenty of the real kind in Siberia (assuming he’s not dead, of course).


February 9th, 2014
10:20 am

You’re not just unemployable but also a true vulgarian—eh, Bernie?


February 9th, 2014
12:28 pm

Word of advice….Reduce the Alcohol consumption….reuduce the time on the computer…Turn the TV Off… Care and attention …Talk with her and not too her…is ALL she wants from you. Leave the rest for ME! :)


February 11th, 2014
4:51 pm

The Atlanta Olympics was too much about cashing in by selling tee shirts and Olympic memorabilia. It reminded me of a county fair without candied apples and cotton candy.Commercialization put a damper on the what the Olympics is all about. The opening ceremony was underwhelming because it lacked beauty and class. Unfortunately the planners didn’t think the classics deserved to given much attention. The Olympics should be about the world’s diverse cultures and of course the home country,Unfortunately we missed an opportunity by mistakingly thinking over the top loudness and brashness trump dignity,class and beauty. Super bowl hype and machoism is not what the Olympics is about.