The Sochi opening ceremony recalled London 2012's dramatic production in more ways than one. Where London 2012's Danny Boyle had Olympic rings dripping with sparks, hewn from the hellfire of the industrial revolution, his Sochi equivalent, Konstantin Ernst, formed them from shimmering giant snowflakes, albeit one failed to open.
Where Boyle decorated his stadium with flashing "pixels" to transform the entire bowl into a video screen, Ernst gave everyone a giant medallion with coloured LEDs in it and converted the Fisht Stadium into a giant disco.
And where Boyle subverted the usual chest-beating aggrandisement of opening ceremonies by delivering a pitch-perfect homage to the NHS and cocking a snook at the government, it was tempting to believe Ernst might have done the same with Vladimir Putin's much discussed anti-gay laws.
The pre-show had packed in the massed ranks of the interior ministry choir performing a hi-energy version of Daft Punk's Get Lucky, a soft rock approximation of We Are the Champions by Queen and an exhortation from the hosts to hug one another. And that was before tATu had done their turn.
Huge pillars came out of the floor during Sochi's War and Peace ballroom scene just as Boyle's chimney stacks rose into the Stratford air. Ernst's floating balletic doves brought to mind Boyle's winged cyclists who flew into the air as Arctic Monkeys played.
Opening ceremonies for Winter Olympics tend to be less extravagant affairs than their summer cousins, but after spending $51bn (£38bn) on the most expensive Games yet there was never any chance that Putin was going to scale back here. But this was not a cold, grand spectacle like Beijing's jaw-dropping exercise in military precision.
There were moments of grandeur – not least the dramatic cauldron lighting. But as with Boyle, who rewrote the rule book for opening ceremonies with his complex, intimate snapshot of "who we were, who we are and who we wish to be", this was a production designed as much for those watching on television as those in the stadium seats.
As such, it was intimate as well as grand, if more highbrow in terms of culture than London's emphasis on pop. And after Boyle had baffled half the world with his surreal work of genius, it was perhaps inevitable that the Russians delivered the odd head scratching moment amid the multicoloured mayhem.
In spending $600m on a stadium that will only be used for the opening and closing ceremonies, Putin has made the shambles surrounding the future use of London's Olympic Stadium look like an exercise in masterly legacy planning.
Ernst sought to follow Boyle in trying to show how this vast country wants to be perceived by romping through its past. But, unlike Boyle's pitch-perfect depiction of multicultural modern Britain, he ended up revealing little about what it's like to live in post-Soviet Russia. Perhaps tellingly, under Putin's gaze, he instead delivered a homage to the glories of Russia's past.
But after all the talk of oppressive security, the disgrace of recently introduced anti-gay laws, Russia's human rights record and Putin's macho shows of strength, it was somehow refreshing that Ernst chose to at least try to highlight another side of the country's character.
"I wanted to present the history of Russia as seen though the eyes of a little girl, who represents the feminine side of Russia," he said. "The real Russians, untainted by decades of propaganda and the cold war." Malfunctioning snowflakes aside, he largely succeeded. ( The Guardian)