Let the Games begin! The 2014 Sochi Winter Games have been officially opened today. The opening ceremony was broadcast to more than 200 countries providing the perfect opportunity for Russia to show the best it has got.
Even though not everything went as planned, with one of the five Olympic rings malfunction, it was an elegant, mesmerizing and occasionally surreal ceremony showing the most glorious moments of Russian culture – its composers, art and dance heritage.
Russian television viewers, however, saw all five rings, as the show’s producer Konstantin Ernst recognized the malfunction shortly before it occurred and immediately ordered an image from rehearsals to be transmitted in its place.
“It would be ridiculous to focus on the ring that would not open,” said Ernst later. “It would be silly.”
The show, formally titled “Dreams about Russia”, started with an ‘A to Z’ video of all Russia’s contributions to the world, as a giant firework display lit up the Black Sea coastline.
The main character of the ceremony was a little 11-year-old girl, Liza Temnikova, the daughter of two taxi drivers, who won the role in a casting call. Her character, named Lyubov, which is translated as love, led the audience on a journey across centuries, as well as Russia’s roughly 4,400-mile expanse, across nine time zones, from Europe to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to the Black Sea.
The music performed though the show included pieces by Alexander Borodin, Georgy Sviridov, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, with selections from “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.” There were roles for the opera soprano Anna Netrebko; the prima ballerina Diana Vishneva; and Russia’s best-known conductor, Valery Gergiev of the Mariinsky Theater. There were Cossack dancers and singers from the more than 600-year-old Sretensky Monastery Choir.
Breaking with tradition, the Parade of Athletes, one of the central elements of all Opening Ceremonies, took place at the start and not the finish of the evening, with 3,000 athletes emerged from beneath the stage up a ramp in alphabetical order, but not before Greece as is traditional.
All were welcomed by a largely Russian crowd that seemed genuinely delighted by the experience. Unlike crowds in other Olympics, they clapped for everyone, booed nothing, and remained in their seats through the post-show fireworks.
Later, the crowds were wowed by the entrance into the stadium of a 65-metre long troika and a giant inflatable structure in the form Moscow’s iconic St Basil’s Cathedral. Then, to the explosive sound of cannons, the vast army of visionary 17th century tsar, Peter the Great took the stadium by storm, followed by a depiction of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi Olympics, was the first to make a speech.
“Welcome to the 2014 Olympics Winter Games in Sochi,” he said. “Our city is unique, as all of Russia is unique. It is the largest country in the world where Europe meets Russia. We are proud to have the privilege to host the entire world.”
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said: “Welcome to the 22nd Winter Olympic Games. Tonight we are writing a new page in Olympic history. What took decades in other parts of the world has been achieved here in just seven years. This is a remarkable achievement.
“Thousands of volunteers have welcomed us with the well known warm Russian hospitality. Many thanks to all of them.
“Russia and the Russians have set the stage for you, the best winter athletes on the planet. From this moment on, you’re not only the best, you are Olympic athletes. You will inspire us with your outstanding performances.”
Putin himself presided over the entire event, stepping forward only to sound the starting gun for the Games. “I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games open,” he said.
The evening ended with the giant torch lighted by legendary hockey goaltender Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Irina Rodnina, who together carried the flame outside the arena and stuck it into what looked like a giant tail section of an airplane. A glow and roar ensued and later, on their way back to the buses and trains, fans huddled around it in awe, says LA Times.