Slatest PM: What Was Missing From Sochi's Opening Ceremony

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 7 2014 5:10 PM

Slatest PM: What Was Missing From Sochi's Opening Ceremony

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Let the Games begin!

Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

The Cold Open: New York Times: "With an outsize extravaganza that reached deep into the repertoire of classical music and ballet, traversed the sights and sounds of the world’s largest geopolitical expanse, soared into outer space, and swept across 400 years of history in a celebration of everything from Czarist military might to Soviet Monumentalism, a swaggering, resurgent Russia turned its Olympic aspirations into reality on Friday night. ... The 18-chapter, 2.5-hour performance ... provided a majestic spectacle that included a glowing troika of horses streaking through a snowbound sky, the multicolor onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral bobbing in the air; literary references to Gogol, Tolstoy and Nabokov; images of behemoth post-Revolutionary skyscrapers and space capsules; as well as performances by Russia’s storied ballerinas, musicians and singers. ... And the Olympic torch was carried on its last steps by a cadre of Russia’s most famous athletes, including the gold medal winning rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, the champion pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and the tennis star Maria Sharapova, who won a silver medal at the Summer Games in 2012."

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What Was Missing: Associated Press: "The show opened with an embarrassing hiccup, as one of five snowflakes failed to unfurl as planned into the Olympic rings, forcing organizers to jettison a fireworks display and disrupting one of the most symbolic moments in an opening ceremony. Also missing from the show: Putin's repression of dissent, and inconsistent security measures at the Olympics, which will take place just a few hundred miles (kilometers) away from the sites of a long-running insurgency and routine militant violence. And the poorly paid migrant workers who helped build up the Sochi site from scratch, the disregard for local residents, the environmental abuse during construction, the pressure on activists, and the huge amounts of Sochi construction money that disappeared to corruption."

Terror Scare: Wall Street Journal: "Turkey said a plane from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with 110 passengers landed safely at an airport in Istanbul after one traveler issued a bomb threat and tried to redirect the plane to Sochi, where Russia is staging the Winter Olympics. Pilots sent a signal that the plane was being hijacked before entering Turkey's airspace, said Habib Soluk, an undersecretary at the Transportation Ministry, during a live interview with the NTV news channel. The hijacker has been rendered ineffective, according to NTV reports that haven't been confirmed by officials. No one was hurt, Mr. Soluk said. ... Vasyl Zvarych, the deputy spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry, said the alleged hijacker is a Ukrainian citizen born in 1969. The Ukrainian consul is at the airport in Turkey to help Ukrainian citizens who were on board, he said. Mr. Zvarych said he wasn't convinced the attempt was terrorism of any sort, but that Ukraine's security service, the SBU, will try to investigate further."

It's Friday, February 7th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees, and the whole team at @Slatest.

NSA Can't Keep Up: Washington Post: "The National Security Agency is collecting less than 30 percent of all Americans’ call records because of an inability to keep pace with the explosion in cellphone use, according to current and former U.S. officials. The disclosure contradicts popular perceptions that the government is sweeping up virtually all domestic phone data. It is also likely to raise questions about the efficacy of a program that is premised on its breadth and depth, on collecting as close to a complete universe of data as possible in order to make sure that clues aren’t missed in counterterrorism investigations. In 2006, the officials said, the NSA was collecting nearly all records about Americans’ phone calls from a number of U.S. companies under a then-classified program, but as of last summer that share had plummeted to less than 30 percent."

Nation Rebranding: Reuters: "President Nursultan Nazarbayev may drop the 'stan' from Kazakhstan to distinguish his booming oil-rich nation from the rest of Central Asia, where the other so-called stans are mostly mired in poverty. The world's ninth largest nation by area with a population of just 17 million, Kazakhstan is the largest economy of the post-Soviet region, which also includes Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. ... Nazarbayev ... said a new name like Kazakh Eli, which stands for 'The Land of Kazakhs', would be more eye-catching for a foreigner studying the region's map. 'In our country's name, there is this 'stan' ending which other Central Asian nations have as well. But, for instance, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just two million people, but whose name lacks the 'stan' ending,' Nazarbayev's press service quoted him as saying."

Hoffman's Funeral: NBC News: "The private funeral for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in New York on Friday attracted a host of top-notch screen stars including Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett and Joaquin Phoenix. Directors Spike Lee and Joel Coen, as well as actors Ethan Hawke, Diane Keaton, Amy Adams, Maya Rudolph, Marisa Tomei, Louis C.K. and Anna Paquin, were also among those seen entering Manhattan's Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. Hoffman's casket was carried into the church by black-clad pallbearers, and his former partner, Mimi O'Donnell, was photographed carrying the youngest of their three children. Hoffman was found dead in his apartment on Sunday of an apparent heroin overdose at age 46."

Grape Soda Homicide: Los Angeles Times: "A Tennessee couple pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and child abuse charges for allegedly intoxicating their 5-year-old daughter by having her chug more than two liters of water and grape soda, leading to her death. Randall Lee Vaughn, 41, and Mary Vaughn, 58, of Surgoinsville were arrested this week after a two-year investigation into the death of the man’s daughter and his wife’s stepdaughter. The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department said the parents drove an unresponsive and discolored Alexa Linboom to the emergency room Jan. 1, 2012. She died two days later because of 'acute fluid/water intoxication.' It caused her sodium level to drop, swelling the brain with water and severely damaging it. The death was eventually ruled a homicide."

A-Rod Drops Suit: ESPN: "Alex Rodriguez has withdrawn his lawsuits against Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig and the players' association to overturn his season-long suspension, a sign the New York Yankees third baseman may be prepared to accept the penalty. ... The notices of dismissal in the two lawsuits were filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan. ... Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games last Aug. 5 for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz cut the penalty on Jan. 11 to 162 games plus the 2014 postseason."

That's all for Monday. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.