Russians aren’t exactly known for their sense of humour; sprawling literary opuses, revolutions, Soviet montage cinema, nesting dolls, shirtless horseback rides and a less than hospitable attitude towards homosexuality, sure… but not so much humour. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the organisers were able to laugh at themselves, specifically the Olympic Rings blunder/malfunction from the opening ceremony. As a troupe of dancers expanded to form the iconic Olympic logo, one last ring of dancers lagged behind the rest in a wry nod to the now famous ‘snowflake moment’ from the opening ceremony.
When we think back to the Winter Olympics of 2014, we’ll remember double toilets, we’ll remember protests, and we’ll remember stray dog culls – none of which were things that the organisers intended us to take away from the event. Yet the snowflake could well end up being the indelible image from the 2014 winter Olympics and it too came about by accident; it may even overshadow some of the nastier stories that came out of the Sochi in the last few weeks. I’m not here to talk about the other questionable aspects of the games, but there’s a lesson to be learnt here from how Russia handled the closing ceremony. They took hold of an element of their opening ceremony that went wrong and twisted it around in to something positive.
Not only is it a great example of a wily PR manoeuvre (as well as an example of how entertainment can be used to get a message across – in this case “Ooops”) but it also displays a surprisingly healthy attitude towards ‘mistakes’ at events. I’m sure that there were a few slapped wrists after the opening ceremony but after the dust had settled, someone recognised the fact that out of this pyrotechnic misstep, they could create something organic and playful. Here was one blunder from the Winter Olympics that the organisers could take control of.
In an industry so focussed on schedules and seating plans and military precision, there’s sometimes a danger of strangling all the fun and spontaneity out of an event. When something goes wrong, fingers are pointed, blame is apportioned and mistakes are hastily swept under the events rug. But while it’s good to stick to the plan, maybe sometimes it’d be better if we all accepted that serendipity is a big part of what makes live events so exciting and memorable.
Have any examples of memorable accidents in events or live performances? Let us know in the comments.