The 2014 Winter Olympics were given a grand welcome in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremony, which took place inside Fisht Olympic Stadium, put the country's history and culture on display for the world to see.
Every nation that hosts the marquee international showcase adds its own flair to the ceremonies. Russia did so by putting the country's vast size and various different regions in the spotlight with a memorable starting segment.
After reviewing the Russian alphabet, a key distinction since the countries were set to enter the main venue in a slightly different order, the focus shifted to a young girl in a white dress. She grabbed onto a kite and begun to soar.
Jonathan Anker of HLN provided an image of her flying above the stadium floor, where a white horse grazed and a volcano emitted smoke:
To conclude the journey, five huge snowflakes emerged in the sky. As they begun to unravel, it became clear they were transforming into the Olympic rings in impressive fashion. Unfortunately, as USA Today pointed out, one flake failed to open:
The technical glitch happened just before Russian president Vladimir Putin entered the stadium. Quickly, the ceremony recovered with a tremendous rendition of the national anthem. The Canadian Press' Neil Davidson applauded the effort:
Perhaps the best moment of the anthem came as a large group formed a huge Russian flag. They moved in a perfect rhythm that made it appear as though the flag was waving. Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald captured a picture of the highlight:
Up next was a recap of the long and winding journey the Olympic flame took from Greece to Sochi. The flame is one of the great traditions in sports.
It was then time for the traditional parade of nations. A total of 44 heads of state were in attendance for the athlete march. The Voice of Russia passed along comments from Russian minister of foreign affairs Sergey Lavrov, who added a total of 60 will visit the Games:
How many heads of states were present at the Olympics in Vancouver or London? Nobody has ever counted. We began to count, because people had begun to ask such questions. Today we can say that 44 heads of state will be present at the Olympic opening ceremony. Altogether, 60 heads of states will visit Sochi to watch the Olympics. So, you can draw your own conclusions.
In a remarkable display, a satellite image of Earth was projected onto the stadium floor. The image then zoomed in on Greece, at which point an entryway opened up in the ground and the athletes entered the stadium from the middle of the image.
The presentation of the display, which changed for each country, was a unique way to present what's usually a pretty straightforward part of an Olympic ceremony. Patrick Turner provided an image of how it looked when Australia entered the stadium:
Bermuda went with shorts, despite it being the Winter Games (via Busted Coverage):
Germany opted for a colorful appearance (via Tony Manfred of Business Insider):
The United States went with a sweater that will probably end up being pretty polarizing. Some people will love it and others won't like it (via the New York Times):
Ukraine picked out some cool jackets (via Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times):
Finally, the Russian delegation entered to complete the parade and received a massive ovation from the home fans (via Matt Galloway of the CBC):
While there weren't many celebrities recognized beyond the athletes themselves and the aforementioned heads of state, Russian music duo t.A.T.u. performed before the ceremony:
Russia saved the more traditional opening ceremony performances for after the parade. There was plenty of song and dance while showcasing symbols of Russia's past and present. Interestingly, most of the props were supersized.
Nicholas Buckland of Team Great Britain supplied a glimpse of the show:
What really stole the spotlight, however, were the Olympic mascots. The massive animals took center stage to wow the crowd, and they certainly did that. Their appearance will certainly be one of the lasting images from the opening ceremony.
Speeches from the main dignitaries followed the main performances.
Christine Brennan of USA Today noted that International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach talked about diversity:
Russian president Putin then announced the opening the Games (via Cork Gaines of Business Insider):
The Olympic flag then entered the stadium, with Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, among those having been given the honor to carry it (via Remco Timmermans of World Space Week):
The flag, much like the Olympic flame, is one of the Games' best traditions.
Famous Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sang the Olympic anthem as the flag was raised.
The final group of torchbearers included Maria Sharapova, Yelena Isinbayeva, Aleksandr Karelin, Alina Kabaeva, Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak.
Together, Rodnina and Tretiak lit the cauldron:
With that, the 22nd Winter Olympics were underway.