The 2014 Winter Olympics are fast approaching, with preliminary events kicking off on Thursday, Feb. 6. The following night will bring the opening ceremony, an event that always brings plenty of buzz, celebration and critique to the host nation.
Predictably, event organizers have been tight-lipped about the planned processions, preferring to spring the surprise upon the public. With the information available, here's the latest rumors and news surrounding the opening ceremony.
Who Will Be the USA's Flag-Bearer?
The identity of the American flag-bearer is still a mystery, and NBC Olympics recently compiled a list of 13 candidates for the public to vote on. As NBCSports.com notes, there are usually a few distinct characterizations for a flag-bearer:
The U.S. flag bearer generally falls into one or more of three categories — medal favorite (Mariel Zagunis, 2012), longtime Olympian (Mark Grimmette, 2010) or fascinating backstory (Lopez Lomong, 2008).
Technically, a flag bearer doesn’t have to be an Olympian. Boxer/politician Manny Pacquiao carried the Philippines flag at the 2008 Olympics.
The identity of the flag-bearer is not actually up to a public vote, however. Team captains will decide on behalf of the athletes who ends up with the honor, with the results decided a day or two before the opening ceremony.
For what it's worth, the NBC poll had bobsledder Chris Fogt in the lead at 13 percent. Fogt is an Army major who served a year in Afghanistan after competing at the 2010 Vancouver games. Other notable leading candidates include ski jumper Lindsey Van and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall.
Regardless, the American flag-bearer will be revealed shortly, and his or her combination of perseverance and athletic achievement will make for an inspirational story.
Fisht Olympic Stadium
Fisht Olympic Stadium is the center of the games, the location where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held. According to City News Toronto, Russian organizers were recently spotted giving a preview of Friday's ceremonies:
Loud music and light displays could be heard and seen through the roof of the stadium as part of the rehearsals which lasted a little over two hours and ended in a crescendo of fireworks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent more than $50 billion (US dollars) at the Olympic Games, a prestige project set to open with great fanfare on February 7.
The stadium cost $780 million and stands as the glittering centerpiece for the relatively anonymous Black Sea resort. According to at least one reporter, the dress rehearsal was an impressive display:
Just been to #Sochi2014 opening ceremony rehearsal at the Fisht Olympic Stadium (WC 2018 venue). Very impressive & felt like a nightclub.— James Fielden (@James_Fielden) February 1, 2014
The safety of the athletes and viewers will be most important, and per Stephen Wilson of ABCNews.com, the IOC will review Sochi's security plans to confirm repeated assurances that the Olympics will be safe.
The lack of information surrounding the potential performers in unsurprising, but a few rumors have leaked recently. As Oscar Lopez of the Latin Times notes, Sochi will be trying to outdo Beijing's extravagant 2008 ceremony:
The event is going to be extravagant with over 1,000 people expected to take part. Indeed, a chorus made up of over one thousand Russian children is expected to perform as part of the event. Russia will no doubt be trying to outdo the extravagance of China's 2008 ceremony, which was one of the largest and most exciting ever.
According to the Telegraph, renowned viola player Yuri Bashmet and conductor Valery Gergiev will be in attendance. Gergiev essentially confirmed his participation in a September meeting of the All-Russian Choral Society, despite supposedly being sworn to secrecy about his involvement.
In addition, the Moscow Times reported that pianist Denis Matsuev will be a part of the performance. Ultimately, however, the biggest secrets are still under wraps and will not be revealed until the Friday night showcase.