Sochi, Russia: Smoke and mirrors? Russian state television aired footage Friday of five floating snowflakes turning into the Olympic rings and bursting into pyrotechnics at the Sochi Games opening ceremony. Problem is, that didn't happen.
The opening ceremony at the Winter Games hit a bump when only four of the five rings materialized in a wintry opening scene. The five were supposed to join together and erupt in fireworks. But one snowflake never expanded, and the pyrotechnics never went off.
But everything worked fine for viewers of the Rossiya 1, the Russian host broadcaster.
As the fifth ring got stuck, Rossiya cut away to rehearsal footage. All five rings came together, and the fireworks exploded on cue.
"It didn't show on television, thank God," Jean-Claude Killy, the French ski great who heads the IOC coordination commission for the Sochi Games, told The Associated Press.
Producers confirmed the switch, saying it was important to preserve the imagery of the Olympic symbols.
The unveiling of the rings is always one of the most iconic moments of an opening ceremony, and President Vladimir Putin has been determined to use the ceremony as an introduction of the new Russia to the world.
Konstantin Ernst, executive creative director of the opening ceremony, told reporters at a news conference that he called down to master control to tell them to go the practice footage when he realized what happened.
"This is an open secret," he said, referring to the use of the pre-recorded footage. The show's artistic director George Tsypin said the malfunction was caused by a bad command from a stage manager.
Ernst defended his decision, saying that the most important part was preserving the images and the Olympic tradition: "This is certainly bad, but it does not humiliate us."
NBC was to air the ceremony in the U.S. on tape delay later Friday, and said in a statement: "We will show things as they happened tonight."
Glitches are not uncommon at Olympic opening ceremonies.
There was a minor controversy over trickery involving the fireworks at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after it was revealed that some of the display featured prerecorded footage.
However Olympic officials have defended the use of TV rehearsal footage to cover up a glitch in Sochi's opening ceremony.
The ceremony hit a bump when only four of five floating rings linked up. Russian state television cut away to air the recorded images showing all five rings joining together and fireworks exploding.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams says "some people decided to take some other footage and some not."
He says the "the show itself was a fantastic one" and "I don't see what the problem is, to be honest."
Officials also defended the choice of Irina Rodnina, the three-time figure skating gold medalist who lit the cauldron with hockey great Vladislav Tretiak.