Russian Viktor Plushekno and his tasseled teammates rallied the home crowd with an early lead in the new event of team figure skating. But as the spotlight turned to the 2014 Sochi Olympics -- before the opening ceremony; if that isn’t a surreal harbinger we don’t know what is -- all-around Olympics guide/moral compass Bob Costas sought to offer some political context.
Convening New Yorker editor David Remnick and Russian American journalist Vladimir Posner -- as Russia experts, both are consultants for NBC at these politically charged Games -- Costas walked through the issues Russian President Vladimir Putin faces away from the ice and snow.
And besides, Remnick said, "resentment is in many ways the animating [force] for Putin on the world stage." So every time you criticize Putin, you're actually fueling him. Cheery.
How to cover the many delicate issues surrounding these Olympics will be a question for NBC, whose executives have said they want to leaven the feel-good humanist stories with more substantive content. If Thursday's introduction was any indication, there will be a fair helping of that.
Though it was the new event of slopestyle -- Torah Bright but no Shaun White -- that took the mountain spotlight Thursday, Costas was asking about Russian lawmakers' passage of an anti-LGBT law (phrased rather roundabout-ishly as “passing a law billed as repressive to the gay community”) and what that meant at the Games.
As the cheering for Team Russia at the team figure skating program suggested, those natives are looking generally for big medal counts. But they have their priorities too.