The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014 has opened with a grand show thrilling spectators at the Fisht Olympic Stadium and billions of viewers around the world. The Ceremony started at exactly 20:14 Moscow Time, which symbolizes the year of the first Winter Games in Russia’s history, and in about three hours the world was told the history of a great country – Russia. The Ceremony is set to be remembered around the world thanks to its scale, entertainment, unique scenery and innovative use of technology. In total, more than 12,000 people were involved in the realization of the Opening Ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014.
The concept of the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony
The main heroine of the “Dreams of Russia” show was a little girl with the beautiful and symbolic Russian name “Lyubov” (Love), whose image symbolizes the soul of Russia. Lyubov led spectators through the entire Ceremony, telling them about her dreams and involving them in a magical journey through time and space, through centuries of history and the vast expanses of Russia, its 17 million square kilometers, 9 time zones and population of 180 different nationalities. A country where all the year seasons meet and which is surrounded by the longest coastal line in the world. The show highlighted the many voices of Russia: from twinkling northern lights above the vast of the Arctic Ocean to the subtropical Sochi, from Kamchatka’s hot geysers to the Urals.
The Opening Ceremony consisted of 18 separate chapters, each of which was original and unique. For one unforgettable evening filled with innovative technology, light, music and vibrant colors, spectators met with a strikingly rich cultural and intellectual history of a vast Russia, experiencing the symbols of the main milestones of the ever-changing country – from the mythical Kitezh city and St. Basil’s Cathedral, scenes of the time of Peter the Great and the Natasha Rostov’s ball described in the novel “War and Peace”, to the landmarks of the 20th century. Spectators saw large-scale symbols of the avant-garde embodied by a striking dance of giant moving objects, people and machines, through to bright and recognizable scenes of life in Russia from the second half of the 20th century through to today. In the closing scene spectators saw a colossal dynamic installation, united by architecture, music and modern technologies, a bright mix of outer space and athletes dedicated to the stellar results of great Olympic victors.
Russian stars such as Svetlana Zakharova, prima ballerina of the Bolshoy theatre and People’s Artist of Russia; Danila Korsuntsev, principal dancer of the Mariinsky theatre and Honored Artist of Russia; Vladimir Vasilyev, People’s Artist of the USSR; Alexandr Petukhov, principal dancer of the Bolshoy theatre and Honored Artist of Russia; Ivan Vasilyev, principal dancer of the Mikhaylovsky theatre; Diana Vishneva, prima ballerina of the Mariinsky theatre and People’s Artist of Russia; and Anna Netrebko, principal opera singer of the Mariinsky theatre and People’s Artist of Russia, all played incredible roles in the Ceremony.
Works of prominent Russian composers painted a musical canvas for the ceremony on a scale comparable to the Olympic Games themselves, which captured not only the cultural legacy of Russia but also the richness of the human experience.
The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi became the most innovative ceremony from a technical point of view. The rich events of Russian history were revealed through original, high-tech decorations. 80 large hanging objects moved using an intricate suspension system with a total length of 3.8 km. The heaviest decoration represented Kamchatka, weighing 4.8 tons.
To guide the system, more than 380 suspension points and trusses with a total length of over 2.5 km are mounted in the dome of the stadium. These hold lighting, sound and projection equipment weighing 310 tons.
The stage at Fisht stadium has a total area over 8,500 square meters and is equipped with 25 lifts and 18 trap doors.
In all, the ceremony involved more than 500 loudspeakers with a total capacity of 1 million watts and over 15,000 walkie-talkies with headphones for the cast and technical personnel. 132 powerful spotlights shone with the brightness of 2.64 million watts. 140 television cameras immediately provided the unique image of the ceremony to viewers around the world.
One of the most solemn moments of the Opening Ceremony was the traditional raising of the national flag of the host country.
27 performers of the Sretensky Choir sang on stage the national anthem of Russia. The performance began with choral singing without instrumental accompaniment. Then from the north and south, 240 marshals, dressed in white, blue or red glowing costumes rose to the stage to form the shape of the Russian national flag.
At the same time, a group of cosmonauts, including the Russian and Soviet cosmonaut Sergey Krikalev; the second woman cosmonaut and the first woman cosmonaut to visit outer space Svetlana Savitskaya, Russian cosmonaut and scientist Fedor Yurchikhin, and Russian cosmonaut and tester Elena Serova, raised the flag of the Russian Federation to the sounds of the national anthem.
The way the athletes entered the stadium – the Parade of Nations – was innovative as well. A unique projection on the stage of the stadium recreated an image of the planet Earth flying through the space, with the surface flashing the shape of the country whose delegation was doing the honour lap at that particular moment. For the first time in history of the Olympic movement participants of the Parade of Nations were coming out to the stage via a special 48-meter ramp, situated in the center of the stadium, as if they were coming from the heart of their countries.
The athletes entered the stadium in a festive atmosphere, to the sounds of music composed by the DJ Leonid Rudenko and based on popular Russian songs. Traditionally, the Parade of Nations was opened by the team of Greece and closed by the 270 Russian athletes who were greeted by the storm of applause. In total, 3,500 athletes took part in the Parade.
The artistic scenes of the ceremony were followed by the protocol tradition during which the Games were officially declared opened.
Remarks by the President of the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko were followed by the speech of Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee. President Bach turned the floor over to the President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, who officially declared the Olympic Games opened. At that moment, along the perimeter of the stadium fireworks rocketed towards the sky.
The Olympic flag appeared at the stadium to the sounds of Chaykovsky’s Coronation March. By tradition, eight renowned people, who have each succeeded in a particular field, carried the flag out. Amongst them were the first woman-cosmonaut and the only woman in the world to go on a solo space flight Valentina Tereshkova; world-renown Russian conductor, art director of the Mariinsky theatre Valeriy Gergiev; Russian and Soviet hockey player, holder of all the highest world hockey titles, double Olympic champion and seven times world champion Vyacheslav Fetisov; Russian and Soviet film director and actor, Oscar awardee Nikita Mikhalkov; Soviet speed skater, the only six time Olympic champion in the world history of speed skating, double absolute world champion Lidiya Skoblikova; Russian theatre and cinema actress, со-founder of the charity foundation “Grant a life” Chulpan Khamatova; Russian TV correspondent Anastasiya Popova; cyber-athlete, the most famous virtual racing car driver, Russian and world champion according to the World Computer Games in the category “Need for Speed” Alan Enileev.
A few minutes later, to the sounds of the Olympic anthem, performed by the famous soprano of the Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko, the Olympic flag was run up to the accompaniment of the State Symphonic Orchestra «New Russia» conducted by the Sochi 2014 Ambassador Yuriy Bashmet.
This was followed by the Oath, pronounced by: from the athletes – Ruslan Zakharov, Russian short track athlete, Honoured Master of Sports of Russia, European Champion, from the trainers – Anastasiya Popkova, winner and awardee of international competitions, from the judges – Vyacheslav Vedenin, Master of Sports in cross-country skiing, internationally certified judge.
The culmination of the opening ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, which closed the spectacular 65,000 km torch relay after 123 days. The first torchbearer at the Olympic Stadium was Mariya Sharapova, who came to the stage up the athletes’ ramp. Mariya handed the torch over to Elena Isinbayeva, who in her turn passed it over to Aleksandr Karelin. Aleksandr made a honor lap of the stadium and handed the torch over to Alina Kabaeva. The Olympic cauldron was lit by three times Olympic champions and legendary athletes Vladislav Tretyak and Irina Rodnina.
Vladislav Tretiak and Irina Rodnina symbolically carried the flame through the ages till the present and opened the giant gates of the stadium that lead to the main Olympic cauldron. Spectators could then see the backstage area of the ceremony. All the artists and volunteers of the opening ceremony lined up, cheering the Olympic flame. The athletes lit the small cauldron, situated at the foot of the main Olympic cauldron. The flame then rose and lit the main symbol of the Olympic Games.
The Olympic cauldron was lit with the actual torch that travelled to space. The lighting of the Olympic cauldron happened to the sounds of Stravinsky’s suite “Firebird”. The opening ceremony was closed by large-scale 3,500-round fireworks.
Konstantin Ernst, Ceremonies Chief Creative Director and Screenwriter:
“I would like to tell a story of my country in a way that nobody told before. I wish people around the globe would learn, understand and possibly love Russians. I wish people would see the diversity of Russia through the eyes of a child girl, the main heroine of the Ceremony, the little girl’s name is Lubov, which is love in the Russian language. And I sincerely hope that people would feel the love of our hearts, the love which we want to share with the whole world».
Andrei Nasonovskiy, Ceremonies’ Executive producer:
“For ambitious projects of such scale, the team building is possibly the main factor of success. People, who have got together to create top class Ceremonies must be not just professionals of highest calibre, they should possess a colossal experience of organizing of large scale shows, they should work as one single body, in harmony and effectively. We have been able to create a unique international team, and in my opinion this is the biggest success of the Ceremonies”.
James Lee, Ceremonies Technical Producer:
“We had a very interesting and ambitious goal, and the technical team has achieved the impossible in bringing the ceremonies Creative vision to life. With the largest ceremonies aerial delivery system and most innovative ceremonies show deck system the Sochi 2014 Ceremonies are technically unprecedented”.
Note to the editor
The Olympic ceremonies are among the most ancient and prestigious traditions in the world of sports. In Ancient Greece, Olympic competitions were held for almost 12 consecutive centuries, from 776 BC to AD 393. The opening and closing of the Games, as well as praising the winners, were accompanied by meticulously prepared ceremonies and performances. Parades of athletes wearing laurel wreaths and holding palm tree branches and red bands that took place against the backdrop of marvelous temples were an integral part of the Olympic ceremonies of those times.
In 1896 Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games founded by Pierre de Coubertin. He realized that Opening and Closing Ceremonies could turn the Olympic Games into an unprecedented sporting and cultural event, and the spectators fully shared his opinion. About 70,000 people visited the Opening Ceremony for the first modern Olympic Games, where George I, the king of Greece, declared the 1896 Games open. Athletes from 13 different countries took part in those Games.
By tradition, the ceremonies’ details are kept secret and comprise the greatest intrigue of the Games, and each ceremony is recalled for its most spectacular moments.