The Sochi Winter Olympic Games kick off on Friday with the Opening Ceremonies, otherwise known as the part of the Games most people watch even if they don't care about sports. The ceremonies usually serve as a showcase for the country hosting the Olympics that year. That lends itself to spectacle, a tradition that Russia surely hopes to carry on this year. Here's how to watch them, and what to expect:
The Sochi Winter Games Opening Ceremonies start at 11 a.m. on Friday, EST, or 8 p.m. Sochi time. But Americans won't be able to watch the games until 7:30 p.m., when NBC broadcasts their pre-taped version of the ceremony. It's expected to last about four hours.
The Opening Ceremonies are in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, a 40,000-seat structure. Some of the athlete housing is nearby:
Although the network will livestream most events as they happen, saving pre-taped "packages" to air for prime time, NBC isn't livestreaming the Opening Ceremonies. So Americans have two options: most will likely wait until the evening and tune into NBC. For those who want to watch the ceremony live, some networks in other countries will show the ceremony live online. In order to access, say, the BBC's live feed, you have to live in the U.K.— but Deadspin has compiled a list of work-arounds.
3,500 athletes from 87 nations will participate in the Sochi Games this month. Russia has almost as many performers — about 3,000 performing in the Opening Ceremonies to welcome them. Beyond that, Russia has tried to keep most information about their plans quiet (London's 2012 Opening Ceremonies were also kept largely under wraps). A few possible details are working their way through the rumor mills, however.
One of the biggest hints came from Russian pop duo tATu, who had to delete a tweet and Facebook post indicating that they were reuniting for the Opening Ceremonies. So unless their self-inflicted leak changed Russia's plans, you should probably look for them. Bleacher Report notes that viewers should keep an eye out for Danielle Bradbery, the American teenager who sang the theme song for the 2014 Winter Games. We also know that a series of Russian classical composers and performers will be a part of the ceremony, so prepare to watch some ballet, probably.
We also know who will carry the American flag for the USA: Todd Lodwick, the Nordic combined skier competing in his sixth Olympic Games. But we don't know whom Russia has chosen to light the Olympic Torch at the closing of the ceremony. There's an outside chance that Vladimir Putin's accomplished rhythmic gymnastics girlfriend could do the honors, if you want to believe the rumors.
We know that Sochi's Opening Ceremonies will include, as always, the Parade of Athletes, the lighting of the Olympic Torch, and an hours-long spectacle to welcome everyone to the 2014 Winter Games. Just a few details have leaked about the themes viewers might expect to see from Russia during that spectacle.
First, we know that the choreographer for Spider Man: Turn off the Dark is involved, so those in the stadium will probably want to look up for a lot of ariel stuff. According to People, Daniel Ezralow directed a 20-minute dance performance about 20th-century Russia. That portion will be the "centerpiece of the ceremony."
Russia's Ria Novosti spoke to volunteers who reportedly viewed the dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremonies earlier this week. One Sochi volunteer told the paper that "It shows all of Russian history, apart from the revolution,” without Lenin or Stalin. The performance reportedly includes depictions of a series of Russian military victories, including battles with Napoleon's forces and World War II. And the ceremony might not actually be free of Stalin's shadow. The paper explains:
Two of the three spectators willing to comment also said there was a section dedicated to the industrialization of the country in the 1930s under Stalin, a section likely to cause controversy if it depicts the positive side of the country's new industry but fails to show the human cost. Millions of people died during Stalin's push to turn the Soviet Union into an industrial power.
So keep an eye out for that.