Opening ceremony is a feast of Russian art, science and music history
The Olympic mascots made an appearance, and spectators were treated to an impressive representation of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Fisht Arena was at its 40,000 capacity, and the show climaxed, as every opening ceremony does, when the Olympic flame arrived. It was tennis legend Maria Sharapova who carried the lit torch into Fisht Arena, and she handed it to two-time gold medalist in pole vault Elena Isinbaeva. It was given next to the wrestler Alexandr Karelin, who went 13 years without a loss until Utah’s Rulon Gardner beat him in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It was the only silver medal Karelin won in international competition.
He passed the torch to Alina Kavaeva, a retired rhythmic gymnast, who gave it to the pair who would light the cauldron. Other celebrities included 10-time world champ and three-time Olympic gold medal figure skater Irina Rodnina and three-time Olympic gold medal hockey goalie for the former Soviet Union Vladislav Tretyak, who is famous to American hockey fans as he was pulled from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” loss to the U.S. after allowing a goal with just a second on the clock. While Rodnina is one of the most successful gymnasts of all time, Tretyak is considered one of the greatest goalies of all time. He has coached in the NHL for 20 years.
The two ran the distance from the arena floor to the stylish cauldron where they held the torch together as the flame started at one end and moved up to the tip of the cauldron. There were temporary fences around the cauldron, and it was guarded by hundreds of police and security officers. But visitors could clearly see the massive structure and watch as the fountain next to it shot into the air in rhythm with the classical music.
The ceremony was a success for spectators who stayed long after the ceremony taking pictures and videos in Olympic Park, which was lit up like an amusement park.
And for the athletes, it was a beautiful moment to start what promises to be a very competitive, very eventful games with six new sports or disciplines.
U.S. bobsled push athlete (for USA-1) and three-time Olympian Curt Tomasevicz, Nebraska, said the best part was watching his new teammates soak it in.
"The third is just as sweet as the first,” he said. “The walk was my favorite part of course, and seeing the reaction of the first-timers."
Pilot of USA 2 (four-man) Nick Cunningham, who is part of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, was experiencing it for the second time.
"I'm overwhelmed with joy and pride as I put on my second Olympic uniform,” Cunningham said. “So much sacrifice and effort went into this and I couldn't be happier."
Park City resident and first-time Olympian Devin Logan was impressed.
“Words can’t describe what I witnessed live with my own eyes,” said the slopestyle skier. “It was the coolest experience of my life.”