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Sochi begins XXII Olympic games

By Leanndra Padgett
Back Page Editor

The XXII Olympic Winter Games are up and running (or skiing). The Opening Ceremony took place last Friday as Russia welcomed athletes from 87 countries to Sochi (sochi2014.com).

The Olympic cauldron was lit by two of Russia’s gold medalists from past years: figure skater Irina Rodnina and hockey goalie Vladislav Tretiak (cnn.com). This tradition comes at the end of a relay that brings fire from Athens, Greece to the current site of the Olympic Games (Olympic.org).

Athletes from the competing countries marched through the Fisht Olympic Stadium, waving their national flags and dressed in matching winter gear. A map of the home country was projected on the stadium floor as each team paraded through the stadium – just the first glimpse of some amazing light feats to come during the show.

Some countries qualified as few as one athlete while several others exceeded 100. The U.S. sent 230 athletes who sported red, white and blue toboggans and highly enviable patriotic sweaters (teamusa.org). Skier Todd Lodwick carried the American flag, and many members of the exuberant team indulged in selfies (cnn.com).

After the parade of nations, Russia put on an elaborate and artistic show for the viewing world. A combination of image projections, mechanical feats, elaborate sets, live actors, talented dancers and classical music yielded a performance that was both lengthy and, at times, stunning.

The show presented a history of Russia from the perspective of a child. A little girl in a white dress danced and was lifted off the ground with cables as she viewed Russia through the ages. From antiquity to the Russian Revolution (interestingly presented industrial and very red) all the way to the 2014 games, history was brought to life in a creative mixture of dance and set.

Especially impressive was a scene in which ships and the ocean were projected onto the floor in an amazing feat of 3D illusion. Live actors moved as the projection did, timing it perfectly so that it looked as if they were in the middle of a living map etching.

Russian president Vladimir Putin officially opened the games. Then, for the traditional symbolic release of doves, dancers in glowing costumes (reminiscent of jellyfishes) twirled. As the phosphorescent tubes on their dresses fanned out, they looked somewhat like birds flying.

Aside from a malfunction with the fifth of the white Olympic rings used in the ceremony (which did not open at the proper time), the performance went off without obvious trouble.