OPENING CEREMONY SLIDESHOW: Click on the image above
So just what kind of spectacle does $51 billion buy? We're about to find out as the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Games kicks off at Fisht Olympic Stadium under Vladimir Putin's watchful eye.
After all the countless words printed about corruption, human rights, stray dogs and missing shower curtains it'll be nice to finally see the world's athletes coming together to celebrate with the official start of competition. Here are seven things you should know about the Opening Ceremony.
The Opening Ceremony can't be viewed live over the air in the United States — you'll have to wait until NBC's primetime broadcast to watch all the splendor — but you can follow the proceedings as they happen here with Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports. We'll be featuring the best photos, tweets and observations as the ceremony unfolds so keep refreshing your page for updates.
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11:06 a.m. ET: We're getting close ...
The stadium has gone quiet! Opening ceremony is due to start in earnest at 8:14 pm, which is 20:14, which is (obv.) what year it is.— Sarah Lyall (@sarahlyall) February 7, 2014
11:14: And we are live! The Opening Ceremony begins with a video that leaves no doubt where these games are being held. A little girl goes through the alphabet calling out some of the Russians who have contributed to world culture from Dostoyevsky to Tchaikovsky.
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports is at the stadium in Sochi and offers this nugget: "The entire opening ceremony was seen through the eyes of a little girl named Lubov (translation: “Love”), and as George Lucas can attest there’s no better decision than building a multi-million dollar production around a child."
11:19: Lubov's journey begins with nine different landscapes floating into the stadium. Impressive, though one of the five snowflakes designed to transform into the Olympic rings doesn't convert.
Now its snowing...indoors..on hundreds of folks dressed in traditional Russian garb...girl still floating..very cool...— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) February 7, 2014
11:25: We have Putin! The first shot of the Russian president presiding over his Sochi Games is shown. The stadium cheers and the playing of the Russian national anthem follows.
11:29: The Russian flag is raised by a group of cosmonauts as on-the-field performers turn themselves into a waving Russian flag.
Human version of Russian flag during anthem pic.twitter.com/zEJwzu0GEY— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) February 7, 2014
11:31: A highlight of the Olympic torch relay is being shown. Hey, where's the clip of the torch being relit by a cigarette lighter? Ah yes, here it is.
11:34: The parade of nations begins, as is tradition, with the Greeks.
For a minute there I thought the teams were being marched into stadium based on size of their IMF bailout packages.— Steve Ladurantaye (@sladurantaye) February 7, 2014
11:40: When's the earliest time it's OK to kick back and enjoy this with a White Russian? Keep in mind it contains dairy, which has to count for something.
11:41: Bermuda's tradition works much better when the Games are held in a subtropical climate.
The Bermudans in shorts as always pic.twitter.com/6Ywb1d0Y6d— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 7, 2014
11:42: Oof. Careful there, Austria.
11:43: This is cool. Each country's map is show as its athletes are introduce.
11:45: NHL action is still going on, so don't expect to see many of your favorite pro hockey players when you tune in tonight.
11:47: The Germans have arrived. They're hard to miss.
11:52: The Canadians enter the stadium with women's hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser carrying the nation's flag. It's the country's largest ever team — 220 members.
11:53: Kazakhstan is in the house. High five!
11:58: The athletes are marching into electronica tracks spun by a Russian DJ who's onsite. After 30 minutes of this, I'm reminded of how much I don't miss the '90s.
12:00: Sad face. India's three athletes march into the stadium under the Olympic banner because of their country's dispute with the organization.
12:06: We're nearing the end of the parade, which features 88 nations and 2,800 athletes. Not quite as long as the Summer Games, which is a good thing.
12:09: Here come the Americans in their ugly Christmas sweaters, designed by Ralph Lauren! American athletes were told not to wear their gear en route to the Games. Now we know why.
Americans in their star-spangled sweaters look like Ralph Laurens Independence Day hangover. You'll either love them or loathe them.— John Powers (@Jpowizglobe) February 7, 2014
12:20: Still have no idea how the Russian alphabet works, but here's Jamaica and Japan. Host Russia is up next and will conclude the march.
12:22: The stadium erupts in cheers as the Russian athletes enter the world's stage.
Bach and Putin watch Russia come in ... pic.twitter.com/EPUkChCl4s— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 7, 2014
Finally, Russia, deafening cheers, standing ovation, music turns to thumping hip hop, awesome knee length fur-lined coats and fur caps..— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) February 7, 2014
12:31: The athletes march concludes and we're treated to the introductions of the Sochi mascots. Go ahead and fill in your own stray dog joke right here.
12:33: Now some sort of weird origin video that my colleague Jay Busbee describes as Lord of the Rings-like. It's not as cool as it sounds, LOTR fans.
12:35: Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?
(Anyone else have a craving for a cruller right now?)
Heres that missing fifth ring! pic.twitter.com/U2XzEfqVYv— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 7, 2014
12:36: Ghost horses! Run!
12:42: The colorful fantasy of the Opening Ceremony is in stark contrast with the grim reality of a report with the attempted hijacking of a flight from Ukraine to Istanbul. Thankfully the plane is reported to be safely on the ground.
MORE: Official says flight from Ukraine to Istanbul landed safely and is being searched after bomb claim: http://t.co/NRaiyWzS19— The Associated Press (@AP) February 7, 2014
12:47: The retelling of War and Peace through dance? Settle in folks, we're going to be here awhile.
War and Peace comes alive. pic.twitter.com/POtGHZex9H— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 7, 2014
12:55: All snark aside, this segment on Russian history with the ballet and fake snow and great music is going to wow a lot of people tonight on NBC.
Ballroom scene from War and Peace pic.twitter.com/PCuW70xx3x— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) February 7, 2014
Train "flies" into Sochi ceremony. pic.twitter.com/7Hr2PjDm1m— Steve Wilson (@stevewilsonap) February 7, 2014
1:03: What's a Russian party without a hammer and a sickle? Apollo Creed spins in his grave.
(Those of you who had less than two hours in the over-under of my first Rocky IV reference, collect your winnings.)
Communism at the Olympics. pic.twitter.com/Nr27n2gmvJ— David Wharton (@LATimesWharton) February 7, 2014
1:06: What does a dog have to do to get any respect around here?
1:14: Sochi 2014 president Dmitry Chernyshenko welcomes the world to Russia with a droning speech. Recites the Games' motto "Hot. Cool. Yours," which makes me want a burger and Blizzard at Dairy Queen.
1:20: IOC president Thomas Bach now droning on.
1:25: All right! Bach now taking indirect shots at Putin and his government, speaking out against discrimination and preaching unity. Well done.
IOC president Thomas Bach defines Olympics as "embracing diversity". Seems a clear message in the current context— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) February 7, 2014
IOC head Bach: "Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart."— Anton Troianovski (@AntonWSJ) February 7, 2014
Ill be honest, I actually really love the Olympic message. It's one of the reasons I love being an athlete so much.— Denny Morrison (@Denny_Morrison) February 7, 2014
1:27: The Games, which already began on Thursday with several events, are officially declared open by Putin himself.
Loud ovation at this restaurant on the mountain when Putin introduced at opening ceremonies.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) February 7, 2014
Giant round of applause for Putin in the bar.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 7, 2014
1:35: The Olympic anthem is played as the Olympic flag is raised.
The Olympic flag has been raised! pic.twitter.com/TNRRvVNAjn— Johnny Quinn (@JohnnyQuinnUSA) February 7, 2014
1:41: The moment is drawing close but we still don't have a definitive answer on who will light the torch. Is this report right?
1:46: Holy speedskaters.
1:50: The Olympic flame has entered the building and it's in the hands of Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova. Here's Jay Busbee on the dramatic relay.
Maria Sharapova just passed the Olympic torch to Yelena Isenbayeva.— Sara Germano (@germanotes) February 7, 2014
Alina Kabaeva now holding the torch.— Paul Sonne (@paulsonne) February 7, 2014
Figure skater Irina Rodnina and goalie Vladislav Tretiak get the flame now...— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) February 7, 2014
Vladislav Tretiak, 3-times ice hockey gold medalist & Irina Rodnina, 3times pairs figure skating gold, have the torch http://t.co/e9mvUeneIi— insidethegames (@insidethegames) February 7, 2014
1:55: The flame is lit! Let the Games begin! Excellent ending by the Russians. Great choice to go with two of the greatest Russian Olympians of all time and a crazy dramatic buildup to the lighting of the cauldron.
Sochi took a lot of grief this week, but it stepped up for the Opening Ceremony.
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