The last time Russia’s paramount leader, Vladimir Putin, attended the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Beijing, the logistics went smoothly enough and the pageantry was world class, though distressing reports of Moscow’s invasion of Georgia distracted from an otherwise good show.

Fighting had broken out on Aug. 1, 2008, between Russian-backed separatists and Georgian government forces, but Russia’s air force did not commence attacks until the eighth day of the eighth month, just as the Olympics were opening on a date deemed auspicious by the Chinese hosts. A poker-faced Putin sat down in his VIP box in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium for the lavish opening ceremony choreographed by the legendary filmmaker Zhang Yimou as Russia’s military incursion into Georgia commenced and the first Russian casualties were recorded. Putin reportedly got real-time updates from the front during the festivities and rushed home soon afterward.

On Friday, Putin will again make a symbolic show of face at an Olympic opening ceremony staged in Beijing, and again his large entourage will again be whisked in and out of the Bird’s Nest with state-of-the-art security and disciplined traffic control. His delegation will be accorded all the VIP creature comforts worthy of an honored guest, although the former KGB agent is sufficiently conversant with the stealthy art of poisoning that he reportedly refuses to eat anything prepared outside of Russia.