8:25 PM ET: NBC’s walk up to the Closing Ceremony is its one-hour docu on Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding which, Kerrigan tells Bob Costas when it’s over, was difficult to watch and “doesn’t matter” any more, in re whether Harding knew in advance about the plan to club Kerrigan in the knee. Seems about right. It will be interesting to see what kind of ratings this debbie-downer lead-in pulls for NBC.
8:28 PM ET: Bob Costas plugging Rio Summer Games, eating up precious minutes. Does this mean we won’t get the see the Closing Ceremony’s honoring of Russian authors Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Checkhov and others too numerous (and tough to spell) to mention?
8:35 PM ET: Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth, and Vladimir Pozner are hosting. Little girl Luba — Love to her friends — from Opening Ceremony is back, and two clowns are guiding a flying boat into the arena. Why a clown, Pozner asks, rhetorically. In Russia, he explains, “the clown is the hero.” Dancers on the floor of the arena, who are dressed in tin foil-y caftans, are soon to go into the Olympic ring configuration you’ve probably already read about in American media outlets that marveled to learn Russians have a sense of humor. “Laughing at yourself is important,” Pozner said.
8:46 PM ET: Russian Olympians bring the Olympics flag. Anchors point out Russian president Vladimir Putin and IOC president Thomas Bach, in the audience. Pozner notes the Russian anthem, which is being sung by a choir of about 1,000 children, is based on the old Soviet anthem which has been reworked. Pozner says there’s still a lot of traces of the Soviet Union around. He would know.
9:00 PM ET: Am I the only one crazy in love with the Cadillac ad? Though I do question the decision to button the lower button on the suit jacket. Reports the American athletes are wearing dark blue coats with a wide red band at the hip — a look that can barely be pulled off by Olympic athletes – over white longjohn-looking sweatpants underneath are accurate.
9:11 PM ET: Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth engage in some fun Sochi Olympics jock-talk while athletes continue to file into the arena: Sean White leaving snowboarding competition with no medals and in need of a hug, and so on.
9:16 PM ET: We’re at the culture part of the ceremony. The Closing Ceremony’s creative director Konstantin Ernst said in a news conference this morning that the Opening Ceremony was a “blockbuster” but his Closing Ceremony would be “more down the arthouse avenue.” Consider yourselves warned. Upside down village where Marc Chagall was born and painted – “I and the Village” – floats across the air in the arena. “If there’s anything Russia reflects, it’s culture,” Pozner says. “Can I ask a question? Why is the house upside down?” Collinsworth responds. “If you’re familiar with Chagall,” Pozner begins, resignedly, explaining Chagall’s “romantic, crazy and yet wonderful” perspective. “I knew that,” Collinsworth said/joked.
9: 23 PM ET: World’s largest chandelier, probably, descends in the stadium as ballet group performs Scheherezade. Looks as though NBC has cut the 60-something grand pianos playing Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” “Ballet is very important in Russia,” Pozner begins. “Ballet is a great expression of who the Russians really are. It demands incredible discipline but at the same time there is a wildness about it.” Where was he during the Opening Ceremony to make sense of it all?
9:32 PM ET: Celebration of writers portion of the ceremony. Pozner: “In Russia a poet is more than a poet. In Russia poets and writers are seen as the conscience of the land; often they were the ones who spoke out and often the ones who suffered. They were the ones people looked up to.” NBC, sensing the viewer tune out, cuts to shot of American Olympians in their scary blue double-breasted coats, who wave to viewers at home.
9: 40 PM ET: Handing of the Olympic flag handed over to the South Koreans. While this goes on, Collinsworth says the Sochi Games “got off to a little bit of a nervous start” and recalled going through a security checkpoint at which one of the guards yelled ‘STOP!’ and he turned around and the guard told him he’d dropped his wallet. “It was the only tense moment I had,” Collinsworth said of his Sochi experience. Michaels said the security situation was “no more insidious” at Sochi than other recent Olympics, adding, “It’s been a New World for over a decade, but that part of it worked” at Sochi.
9:46 PM ET: South Korean presentation begins. Which means NBC cut the Ode to Circus. First the Russian Cop Choir, then the the army of pianists playing Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2,” and now the circus!
9:58 PM ET: “This is the new face of Russia — our Russia,” Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko tells the crowd, in English. “For us, these Games are the best ever!” Wild applause in the stadium. He introduces IOC president Bach, whose speech we’re guessing NBC will not cut this time after the grief the network got for splicing his opening comments. Bach serves up another dose of “act on this Olympic message of dialogue and peace” to the crowd, and compliments Russia for “delivering on all that it promised” at the Games.
10:11 PM ET: Time for the gimongous Russian bear to blow out the Olympic flame and shed a tear. Pozner notes it’s the same bear and the same tear shed by the bear at the 1980 Games in Moscow — boycotted by the United States. Michaels notes the Soviet Union then boycotted the Olympics in Los Angeles. They call a truce and begin to talk about the music that’s being played, only Pozner points out, is the same music played at the Closing Ceremony of that Moscow Olympics. Collinsworth jumps in and changes the subject, observing that every time he leaves an Olympics he is struck by the relationships that come out of it, and all those photos taken, adding that “it’s been a fabulous couple of weeks.” Michaels agrees that most Olympic Games are a “fantasy,” and Pozner meets him half-way, saying he considers himself to be “incredibly lucky” to be doing this.
10:21 PM ET: “That was memorable. I have nothing else to say, I got to tell you,” Michaels says after thousands of children with yellow flowers flood the stadium floor, creating a sea of yellow around the Big Bear, Big Hare and Big Leopard, as opera singer Hibla Gerzmava, floating across the stadium, sings some lovely tune. “That was memorable. I have nothing else to say, I got to tell you, ” Michaels says, moved.
10:25 PM ET: Major fireworks erupt outside the stadium. NBC begins madly interviewing U.S. Olympic athletes who all seem in agreement the Closing Ceremony was “awesome” and downright “fantastic” and demurely decline to say whether they’ll be at the next Winter Games.
10:29 PM ET: Pozner chastizes Michaels and Collinsworth for never learning how to pronounce Russian names correctly. Collinsworth tells viewers to put the next Olympics on their bucket list. Michaels reminds viewers of the safety concerns that opened the Sochi Games and asks viewers to stick around for the premiere of NBC’s new comedy Growing Up Fisher. A medley of Sochi Games Moments wraps up NBC’s coverage.
And, in conclusion, one of The Missing Pianos: