TIME olympics

RECAP: Sochi’s Opening Ceremony

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Performers with balloons representing St. Basil's cathedral. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Three-hour opening ceremony ended with the lighting of the cauldron

The Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics concluded in Sochi, Russia with a vivid display of fireworks and two legendary Russian ex-Olympians lighting the cauldron. The spectacle may not remove the problems that clouded the build-up to the tournament: political controversies, terrorism fears and concerns over the venue’s preparedness remain. The Russians so far have responded with glum defiance; others still question the morality of holding the Games at this Black Sea resort. But that all now takes a backseat as the Games begin. Below is TIME’s live coverage of the glittering event.


1:55 p.m. | The cauldron at Sochi has been lit.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Darron Cummings / AP

The Olympic Cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.


1:54 p.m. | The other ex-Olympian who lit the flame was Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary goaltender for the Soviet Union who is considered perhaps the best ever to play his position. He never played in the NHL, but did have an unfortunate turn in the famous “Miracle on Ice” hockey game.


1:52 p.m.


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Actors perform "Swan Lake" during the opening ceremony.

David J. Phillip / AP

Actors perform “Swan Lake” during the opening ceremony.


1:37 p.m.


1:29 p.m. | Russian President Vladimir Putin: briefly opens the Winter Olympics: “I pronounce these Games open.”


1:26 p.m. | Yep, that’s Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, sleeping during the Opening Ceremony:


1:17 p.m.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2014.


1:14 p.m.

TIME’s correspondent in Sochi sums up the historical gloss we just watched at the Opening Ceremony:


1:12 p.m.

Opening Ceremony

HOW HWEE YOUNG / EPA

Lubov, the so-called ‘Hero Girl,’ is lifted up on strings at the start of the Opening Ceremony.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Mark Humphrey / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony.


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12:59 p.m.


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Performers are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Jim Young / Reuters

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony.


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12:50 p.m. | Reports have surfaced that a flight from Ukraine bound for Istanbul was grounded and searched by Turkish security forces after a passenger claimed a bomb was aboard the aircraft. The alleged bomber reportedly tried to divert the flight to Sochi.


12:47 p.m.


12:43 p.m. | So far in Sochi’s grand-narration of Russian history, we’ve seen flying horses, ancient Greeks and Vikings. But no mention yet of the Circassians— the people indigenous to Sochi forced into exile in the 19th century. — Ishaan Tharoor

Long before the punk-rock group Pussy Riot or global gay-rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community clamored loudly against the events in Sochi. The Circassians, whose history of dispossession and exile Umarov opportunistically invoked, are a scattered, largely Muslim people native to the Caucasus, now found mostly outside of Russia in Turkey and parts of the Middle East. Their original homeland stretches from the eastern rim of the Black Sea — where Sochi sits — to the rugged western highlands of the Caucasus, but few of its indigenous inhabitants remain there.


12:40 p.m.


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Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

David J. Phillip / AP

The Olympic mascots are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2014.


12:34 p.m. | A video montage charting Russia’s origins and epic history just ended. It’s followed by imagery of the symbolic Russian troika, a three horse-drawn chariot:


12:29 p.m.


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12:24 p.m. | Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. just played Team Russia into the procession, which may seem like an odd choice: the two found success in the early 2000s with the single ‘All the Things She Said,’ the video of which showed the girls wearing school uniforms and kissing in the rain.


12:23 p.m.


12:22 p.m. | Not so ‘Cool Runnings': The Jamaican bobsled team just marched. They had to raise money on the Internet to make it to Sochi.


12:19 p.m. | An overhead shot of Team America marching in the procession:

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive.


12:16 p.m. Team Ukraine is marching in Fischt Stadium. The two countries have seen closer ties since Ukraine’s President snubbed a trade and association deal with the European Union in November to instead pivot toward Russia. Since then, violent clashes have rocked the capital Kiev.


12:14 p.m. | The Boston Bruins’ giant defenseman Zdeno Chara led out Team Slovakia:


12:09 p.m. | The American Olympians have arrived and are marching:

[https://twitter.com/Sochi2014/status/431837563108986880]


12:08 p.m.


12:06 p.m. | Here’s the reason why India’s three contestants marched under the Olympic flag and not that of their nation:

The IOC gave India until February 7 to vote in new, untainted leadership, but India’s Olympic Association scheduled a vote on February 9, two days after the opening ceremony. As a result, India’s athletes will have to parade as “independents” under a generic Olympic flag.


12:02 p.m.


11:59 a.m. | Interesting seating arrangement!


11:56 a.m. | If you’re tracking the politics of the ceremony so far, TIME counts a very robust Sochi cheer for Venezuela, whose government enjoys thumbing its nose at the U.S. Deathly silence when the Georgian team marched. Next door to Sochi, Georgia fought a war with Russia half a decade ago and riles the leadership in Moscow. — Ishaan Tharoor


11:55 a.m.


11:52 a.m.


11:49 a.m. | A member of Austria’s Olympic team fell during the procession

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY-DELEGATION

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / Getty Images

A member of Austria’s delegation lies on the ground after falling during the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7, 2014 in Sochi.


11:42 a.m.


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11:40 a.m.

The athletes of each nation are marching out now in procession. TIME’s Simon Shuster describes the scene: “The athletes start marching out onto the stage as a large ring of people in what look to be marshmallow suits clap and do a little two-step dance, swaying back and forth. Not quite the Beijing opening ceremony, but at least they are more or less synchronized. Which is cool.”


11:25 a.m. | Wardrobe malfunction?


11:23 a.m. | We’re being taken on a tour of Russia’s time zones. Does it really need nine of them? We looked at the issue last month:

In 2010, Moscow trimmed the number of zones down to nine (some experts think just four would suffice), but considerable quirks remain: for example, though Russia’s Asiatic port of Vladivostok sits clearly to the west of Japan, the time there is two hours ahead of Tokyo.


11:20 a.m. | Turkish Olympians pose with an official Sochi mascot


11:05 a.m.


11:00 a.m. | The Opening Ceremony has begun.

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY

Damien Meyer / AFP / Getty Images

A military choir performs during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.


One hour before the Opening Ceremony began, TIME’s Simon Shuster recounted the lead-up. Follow him on Twitter @shustry for more:

19:15 One hour to go till the opening ceremony. The announcer calls in the hosts into the stadium, Ivan Urgant and Yana Churikova, who ride out, somewhat anticlimactically, in a golf cart. No disco lights or anything.

Churikova goes all in: “Welcome to the center of the universe!” I guess Russia was never really known for modesty.

19:17: They hop back into their golf cart and ride back off stage. A Russian pop song comes on.

19:20 The golf cart’s back, running laps around the stage with a news camera in toe. Apropos of nothing, a recording starts to play of the words “Welcome to Sochi” in about a dozen different languages. (Or so I assume from the languages I understand.)

Just a few minutes in, and Urgant attempts his first joke. “The people of Sochi are really unique,” he says. “They speak all the languages of the world. But only two phrases. “Welcome,” and, “Sorry, I don’t have any change.” Falls a bit flat. In the English translation, not clear if he’s talking about panhandlers or check-out clerks at the liquor store.

19:24. So then. Nothing to kill an awkward moment like a Queen song, especially one song with a Russian accent. “We are the Champions!”

19:27 Urgant: “Now we’re going to reveal a secret of the opening ceremony. The hero is a little girl, and her name is Love.”

Wait, it gets cheesier.

“I’m overflowing with love right now,” Urgant blubbers. “Can I hug you?” Yana accepts. “Cameraman, can I hug you?” The cameraman accepts.

Then it gets weird.

You know the kissing game they do at the ballpark with the jumbotron? Right. Usually they only zoom in on couples in the stands. Not in Russia.

“Hugs!” Urgant shouts. “Hug everyone!” The camera pans around to the press box. Confusion descends. “Everyone hug your neighbor! You, lonely cameraman, yes, you! Hug the person next to you!” The poor guy concedes.

19:30 Rough transition back to song. Churikova: “There is a Russian tradition that when you hear this song you have to hug someone.” I grew up in Russia and I’m pretty sure there is no such tradition. Anyway, the song was nice.

19:36. Cue the golf cart. Urgant: “Now let me tell you how everyone can become a part of these Games.” Well, at least everyone in the stadium. Urgant pulls a trick from Opera Winfrey’s hat. Everyone is told to reach under their seat and get a light-emitting medal to put around their necks. They all start flickering the Russian tricolor, which looks pretty awesome. For some reason, Churikova feels the need to add, “Don’t worry [the medals] are absolutely harmless for your health.”

TIME Apple

Apple Makes Huge Move Nobody Saw Coming

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 23, 2012.
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to the audience during an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 23, 2012. Robert Galbraith—Reuters

CEO Tim Cook says Apple is still a "growth company"

Apple has repurchased $14 billion worth of its stock after reporting disappointing fourth-quarter earnings two weeks ago, CEO Tim Cook said in a new interview.

Cook told the Wall Street Journal that Apple was “surprised” by the eight-percent drop in its share price late last month, after a weak revenue outlook and lower-than-expected iPhone sales during the holidays led to its sluggish earnings. Since then, Apple bought $12 billion worth of shares through an “accelerated” repurchase program and another $2 billion in shares from the open market, Cook said.

Shares were up about one percent in early trading on Friday.

Apple has bought back more than $40 billion of its shares in the past year, Cook told the Journal, calling it a record for any company over any similar time period. “It means that we are betting on Apple,” he said. “It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do. We are not just saying that. We are showing that with our actions.”

As speculation swirls around Apple’s next big move, perhaps wearable devices, Cook said he still considers Apple a “growth company” with big plans beyond the iPhone. He alluded that may include acquisitions: “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.”

[WSJ]

TIME Prison System

Record Number of U.S. Prisoners Exonerated in 2013

Between 1989 and 2013, 1,281 people spent almost 12,500 years in jail for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted

The number of U.S. inmates exonerated after being falsely convicted of a crime hit a record high last year, according to a new study.

Eighty-seven were found in 2013 to have been wrongly convicted, according to a report out Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law.

Nearly half of those exonerated prisoners had been convicted of murder. About one-third of the exonerations involved cases in which no crime had occurred, the Registry found, and fewer convicts were exonerated through DNA evidence than in the past. That slow trend has been occurring for much of the last decade. The report also noted that 17 percent of those exonerated had originally pleaded guilty to crimes they hadn’t committed, specifically because those types of plea bargains can lead to reduced sentences.

Rob Warden, the co-founder of the Registry and executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, said the numbers reflect a noteable improvement in the criminal justice system. “First, the courts and prosecutorial apparatus are more willing to take these cases seriously than they once were,” he told TIME. “There was a time when you wouldn’t have gotten a court to look at a case where there was a confession. Now we know that false confessions happen quite regularly.”

Texas had the most exonerations with 13, followed by Illinois (9), New York (8), Washington (7) and California (6). Rounding out the top 10 were Michigan and Missouri with five a piece, and four each for Connecticut, Georgia and Virginia.

The Registry has 1,304 exonerations on its list dating back to 1989. Over the 1,281 documented between January 1989 and December 2013, 92 percent were men and 47 percent were black. Within that range, New York has had the most with 152, followed by California (136) and Texas (133). All together, the 1,281 defendants spent nearly 12,500 years in prison for crimes of which they were wrongly convicted.

TIME U.K.

British City Texts Residents To Urge Weight Loss

Residents of Stoke-on-Trent will be told to 'Use the stairs more' and 'Eat fruit and veg'

A city in England will begin sending “motivational” text messages to people who are obese as encouragement to lose weight, the city council said this week.

The text alerts sent out by the city council of Stoke-on-Trent, which lies about halfway between Birmingham and Manchester, range from “Use the stairs more” to “Eat fruit and veg” and “Keep a check on snacks and drinks.” The messages will be part of a roughly $16,000, 10-week program for 500 people who sign up. The council says that the weight loss scheme is a money-saving endeavor — health care costs for about 70,000 obese adults in the city come to more than $80 million a year.

“On average it costs the same amount to perform just one intervention operation to help people manage their weight,” Adrian Knapper, the Cabinet member for health, told the BBC. “Our programme means people who already want to lose weight and have signed up with us to get support will receive a cheap and effective nudge to help keep them motivated.”

But support for the new program wasn’t unanimous.

“If the money went to community groups it could be used to support people losing weight but also for other projects,” said Abi Brown, a conservative councillor, who appreciated the thought behind the program. “The money could just be used more fruitfully.”

[BBC News]

TIME advertisements

Esurance Won the Super Bowl on Twitter Without Even Airing an Ad During the Game

Auto insurance company is giving $1.5 million to someone who tweeted with #EsuranceSave30

More than 111 million people watched the Seattle Seahawks stomp down the Denver Broncos for an easy Super Bowl win on Sunday night, but the real game was on Twitter.

And the winner, according to Nielsen’s post-game report, was undoubtedly Esurance. The auto insurance company didn’t air an ad during the telecast, during which a 30-second spot cost as much as $4 million, but it did right afterward. And it saved—big.

(MORE: Esurance’s $1.5 Million Giveaway Is Making Twitter Go Crazy)

In fact, Esurance said it saved so much it would give $1.5 million—the difference between airing it during or after the game—to a single Twitter user who used the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 before 4 a.m. EST on Monday. The ad featured John Krasinski from The Office.

More than 1.85 million tweets that included the hashtag were sent by more than 1.2 million people, Nielsen found, more than four times it’s nearest competitor. But Budweiser used two hashtags—#SaluteAHero and #BestBuds—and only 290,500 people tweeted with them about 393,700 times.

The contest winner will be announced on Wednesday during Jimmy Kimmel Live.

TIME weather

Midweek Snow Storm Will Affect 100 Million People

With people still digging out of the last one

A winter storm bringing snow and ice is expected to hit more than two dozen states and at least 100 million people from Colorado to Maine this week.

Starting on Tuesday and into Wednesday, the storm may drop six inches of snow or more on parts of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, according to AccuWeather. A stretch of rain will move in underneath the snow belt, affecting parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Rhode Island, among others.

The storm is moving in just as people are still digging out of two recent snowfalls in the Midwest and northeast.

[AccuWeather]

TIME South Sudan

Aid Groups Want More Than $1B for South Sudan

Three children walk through a spontaneous camp for internally displaced persons at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan base in Juba, on Jan. 9, 2014.
Three children walk through a spontaneous camp for internally displaced persons at the United Nations Mission to South Sudan base in Juba, on Jan. 9, 2014. Phil Moore / AFP / Getty Images

1 million could be displaced by June

The United Nations and aid agencies in South Sudan jointly appealed on Monday for $1.27 billion in aid to get them through June as the seven-week crisis threatens to worsen.

A response plan made public on Monday detailed the quickly declining humanitarian situation around the country, which won independence in July 2011. At least 1,000 people have been killed since violence broke out on Dec. 15 and another 865,000 have been uprooted. The report says that figure could hit one million by June.

“The Crisis Response Plan for #SouthSudan aims to: save lives, alleviate suffering, and pre-position relief before heavy rains hinder access,” tweeted Toby Lanzer, the U.N. assistant secretary-general who is currently in Juba, the capital, as a development and humanitarian coordinator.

Aid workers have reached 300,000 people affected by the fighting, but up to seven million are now estimated to be at some risk of food insecurity. Some of the humanitarian groups participating in the call for donations include the U.N. refugee agency, International Organization for Migration and World Food Programme, among others.

Representatives for President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar agreed to a ceasefire in Ethiopia on Jan. 23 but both sides have accused the other of breaking it.

TIME Middle East

Obama Will Travel to Saudi Arabia in March

The president's visit will come after a swing through Europe

The White House confirmed on Monday that President Obama will make his first visit to Saudi Arabia in March to meet with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Obama and King Abdullah are expected to discuss the two countries’ bilateral relations and a number of key security issues in the Gulf like regional extremism, spillover from Syria’s civil war and Saudi concerns about the U.S.-led efforts to broker nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Kingdom’s regional adversary.

The trip was first reported last week by the Wall Street Journal, which cited Arab officials claiming relations between the two countries were “deteriorating,” despite the White House’s no-comment. It will be tacked onto the end of Obama’s visits to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy, where he will meet Pope Francis.

TIME Iran

Iran Minister: Final Nuclear Deal Possible Within Six Months

Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says final deal within reach if 'good will' exists

Iran’s foreign minister said on Monday that a nuclear deal can be finalized within six months if there is “good will” and that he’s not worried about the possibility that the U.S. may impose new sanctions.

The new remarks from Mohammad Javad Zarif came in a speech to the German Council on Foreign Relations. “With good will we can reach an agreement within six months,” he said. “I don’t fear a decision in the U.S. Congress … The U.S. president has promised to veto it.”

In his State of the Union address last week, President Barack Obama said he would veto any legislation passed by Congress that threatened the negotiations with Iran. Some U.S. senators have co-sponsored a bill that would set new economic sanctions on Iran if the current talks fail. The bill is currently stalled, but Iran has said it would pull back from the negotiating table it the bill becomes law.

On Sunday, Zarif met with Secretary of State John Kerry and representatives other world powers working with Iran to secure a deal. He said the Islamic Republic was committed to moving forward with negotiations in order to reach a “balanced” long-term agreement: “I think the opportunity is there, and I think we need to seize it.”

A preliminary deal for Iran to scale back its nuclear program in return for an easing of crippling economic sanctions was reached in November under the stipulation that a more final resolution would be negotiated within the six months that followed.

[Reuters]

TIME E.U.

Report: Corruption Costs E.U. Over $162 Billion A Year

The Headquarters of EU in Brussels, Belgium.
The headquarters of the European Union in Brussels. Getty Images

Three out of four Europeans think corruption is widespread, finds report

A first-of-its-kind report issued by the European Union on Monday found that corruption across 28 member states costs the EU economy $162.19 billion a year.

The EU Anti-Corruption Report found that 76% of Europeans think corruption is widespread and 56% say the level of corruption in their own country has risen over the past three years. The report notes that many member nations have taken steps in recent years to battle petty or institutional corruption, but that results aren’t even across the states.

“Corruption undermines citizens’ confidence in democratic institutions and the result of law, it hurts the European economy and deprives states of much-needed tax revenue,” said European Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in a statement on Monday. “Member states have done a lot in recent years to fight corruption, but today’s report shows that it is far from enough.”

Despite its finding that graft is endemic throughout the E.U., the report found that Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden are among the most transparent and least corrupt. Countries that need improvement include Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Portugal, Romania and Spain, said the report.

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