Three topics have dominated the conversation leading up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi: terrorist threats, Russia's treatment of homosexuals, and Russia spending 2.5 percent of its GDP on the event (from The Economist). Russia can't do too much to fix its spending now, and reports have indicated nearly 100,000 security personnel will be working the events to prevent violence (again, The Economist). The government seemed to be addressing the criticism of its relationship rights record during the opening ceremonies Friday morning.
The act that drew the most headlines was Russian pop duo t.A.T.u., whose pop music began generating renown that quickly became notoriety during the early part of the 2000s. The video for the group's undeniably catchy "All The Things She Said" caught eyes and complaints when it featured the pair, Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova, kissing in the rain. The pair denied any relationship, but they also spun a faux-lesbian identity to keep interest. It didn't help when the duo's producer, Ivan Shapovalov, admitted he got the idea for the group by looking at child pornography.
Most of the Western world only remembers t.A.T.u. for that kiss however, so Russia can only hope the group's performance strikes viewers as a symbol of the government's open-mindedness. Which is terribly manipulative, even if using a staged lesbian kiss from a music video as a symbol of open-mindedness weren't in poor taste enough.
President Vladimir Putin isn't letting his own country get the wrong idea however. The rest of the musicians during the ceremony were conducted by Valery Gergiev, an esteemed figure in classical music and a good friend of Putin. Gergiev has never made any anti-gay statements, but his campaign appearances for Putin, coupled with his criticisms of Pussy Riot, indicate that he's a symbol of the conservative Russian order the president is looking to maintain.
Putin and Russia will do its best for two weeks to wear the face the United States and Europe wants to see. Don't expect it to mean anything come that third week.