Vladimir Putin practices shooting at a firing range as a warning to those Russian athletes who fail to win medals.

Vladimir Putin practices shooting at a firing range as a warning to those Russian athletes who fail to win medals.

by Jim Harris

The Olympic opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia had a charming, home-made quality. Most of the plywood floats were either rubber band-propelled or steam-powered, but a few of the more advanced ones had huge diesel engines, which gave the whole arena a gutsy, “bus terminal” ambience.

Honestly, though, I found a few of the themes in the presentation a bit obscure. For instance, one section contained a parade of floats depicting “Great Russians riding atop iconic bread products.” It consisted of Khrushchev on the crouton, Brezhnev on the bagel, Stalin on the saltine and, bringing up the rear, Putin on the Ritz cracker, accompanied by the famous Irving Berlin song of the same name. Many in the crowd found the Putin pun overly corny and booed loudly, but they were quickly hauled away by secret police, as it is a crime in Russia to “Razz-Putin.”

For the climax of the ceremony, five bejeweled Russian nesting balls were to be lowered from the ceiling, opening up on the stadium floor to reveal the Olympic rings. Unfortunately, one of the balls failed to descend in spite of several large men jumping up and down on it and hitting it with sledge hammers. A large, hairy government official later said that “this sort of thing is not usually a problem in Russia,” and that people “should not read too much into it.”

After the dramatic lighting of the Olympic flame, a shirtless Vladimir Putin rode out on a white horse and held his hand over the flame for a full 15 seconds, causing many women in the audience to swoon. A few men swooned as well, and they were immediately questioned by the KGB.

Regarding the issue of rights for gays in Russia, President Obama  said he was “looking forward to some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold,” which he said “would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there.” To this end, NBC has announced that its daily medal count will list winners according to the categories, “publicly gay, privately gay, partially gay, previously gay, possibly gay and potentially gay.”

President Obama said that he would have come to the opening at Sochi, but that it was on the same date as “Al Green Night” at the Capitol Karaoke Club, for which he had already worked out a whole routine. Of course, with the threat of terrorism being such a big concern in Sochi, Putin has vowed to encircle the town with what he called a “ring of steel,” a moniker he decided on after considering several other names, including “Slavic shield” and “Iron Curtain.” In fact, the security checkpoint workers have become such an integral part of the Olympics that they even have their own events now, including the “group-grope” and the “inseam pat-down.”

SPOILER ALERT: I will now divulge some of the contest results. If, for some unknown reason, you are recording the Olympics to watch at a later date, please look away now.

OK, I don’t have any results. I can’t afford tickets to any of the events, and I’m staying in a hotel in Sochi that doesn’t even have electricity (in other words, just like Chester County). I have been wandering around behind the scenes, though, and have picked up some newsworthy items.

Shaun White (“The Flying Tomato”) dropped out of the “slopestyle” competition (in which, I believe, participants listen to hip hop music on headphones while plunging down a hill on a washboard, trying to avoid sharp, poisoned spikes). White says he wants to give his full attention to the “halfpipe” contest. (This sounds to me like an endurance event for potheads. If that’s what it is, then it will probably also become an event in the WingBowl.)

Other Olympic tidbits: Governor Chris Christie (“The Flying Potato”) was caught rearranging traffic cones in the stadium parking lot to keep America’s rivals from getting to the games on time. Bravo, Governor! NSA bad-boy Edward Snowden was apprehended trying to stuff himself inside a Team USA bobsled for a free ride back home. He managed to break free, pole vault out of the Olympic compound and catch the midnight train to Georgia, where he is now seeking asylum number three. Tough luck, Eddie.

OK folks, you can look back now. Of course, if you’re looking away, you won’t know that I’m telling you to look back, so I’ll just stop writing. Anyway, here’s to the athletes. Bless’m all.