TIME olympics

Everything You Need to Know About The Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Fireworks are seen over the Fisht Olympic Stadium at the Olympic Park during the rehearsal of the opening ceremony in Sochi
Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters Fireworks over the Fisht Olympic Stadium at the Olympic Park during a rehearsal of the opening ceremony in Sochi, on Feb. 4, 2014.

What time it's on and what to watch out for

The Sochi Winter Olympics are set to get underway Thursday — but before the sporting events really start to get heated, there’s a another kind of spectacle to enjoy: The opening ceremony, a time-honored tradition of national pride wherein host countries very literally make a show of one-upping whichever nation held the previous Games.

What time is the opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony will actually happen Friday, Feb. 7 at 11 a.m. EST, but NBC decided it will delay airing the spectacle in the U.S. until 7:30 p.m. Weirdly, this is actually a day after the athletic competitions begin.

How can I watch?

If you’ve got a television, you’ll find the opening ceremony on your local NBC affiliate at 7:30 p.m EST. NBC is live-streaming every single Winter Olympics sporting event on its website and mobile apps, but alas, it’s not streaming the opening ceremony. Aereo, if it’s available in your area, provides an Internet-based option for those sans-TV. Otherwise, call up your local sports bar and see if they’re playing the ceremony.

What’s Russia got planned?

It’s hard to say exactly what’s hiding behind the Iron Curtain. There was a fireworks test this week, so we can safely expect some Putin-approved pyrotechnics. Daniel Ezralow, a Broadway choreographer famous for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, is leading a cast of about 80 professional dancers and hundreds of volunteers in a performance about “20th-century Russia,” he told People, so look out for performers with MAD dance moves, we guess.

Russia’s world-famous for its classical composers, and several top contemporaries are expected to play a role in the opening ceremony. Russian pop band t.A.T.u, two teenagers who semi-pretended to be lesbians and were briefly crazy-popular in the mid-2000s, is rumored to be playing, whatever such a thing might say about Russia’s treatment of gay people. No word on an appearance by Springfield, Missouri indie-pop rockers Somebody Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin — but we’re crossing our пальцы.

What’s up with the Parade of Nations?

The Parade of Nations is one of the best known Olympic spectacles. It’s when all the athletes representing their respective countries in the Games get to walk around an arena decked out in patriotic colors while in alphabetical order by country name. That last part is very important — if a country leaves alphabetical order, it’s automatically disqualified from the Games. Or so I’m told.

This year there’s a twist: The countries will be introduced in alphabetical order according to their Russian spelling. Per Olympic tradition, Greece goes first, alphabet be damned. In Sochi, thanks to Cyrillic, Ireland is relieved of its typical role as an awkward buffer between Iran, Iraq and Israel. Russia, as the host nation, will go last.

MORE: Game On: Highlights From Day One

Who’s carrying the Stars and Stripes?

That’ll be 36-year old Todd Lodwick, a Nordic combined skier who’s been to the Olympics six times.

And the flame? What’s the deal?

Arguably the most important part of the opening ceremonies is the lighting of the official Olympic flame, which symbolizes Prometheus’ theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus (and the 2012 film Prometheus’ theft of my $12.75). Part of Olympics tradition is that the torch makes a relay trip around the world before it’s used to light the flame at the opening ceremonies. Before this year’s games, the Olympic torch (used to light the flame) went on its longest pre-Games relay in Olympic history, traveling to the North Pole, Europe’s highest mountain peak and the International Space Station. Sadly, one torchbearer died of a heart attack shortly after carrying the torch through a part of western Siberia.

A double-rumor-with-a-twist this year: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s supposed girlfriend, a former Olympics champion, is rumored to be lighting the Olympic flame this year. This Olympics has more rumors than Fleetwood Mac.

How long will this thing be?

Previous ceremonies have clocked in at around four hours, or about half the length of the average Lord of the Rings Director’s Cut.

Will this be as British as the 2012 opening ceremony?

Not even in the slightest. The opening ceremony for 2012’s Summer Olympics had a distinctly British flavor, with polite nods to British history, jokes about Queen Elizabeth and appearances by famous British rockers The Who. Russia’s show, while still largely under wraps, will be much more, well, Russian. Expect classical music, ballerinas and, who knows, maybe even bears.

Who’s Russia trying to beat?

China. China’s opening ceremony was outstanding.

TIME olympics

TSA Bans Carry-On Liquids on Flights to Russia

A passenger airliner arrives at Adler Airport ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics on January 31, 2014.
Robert Cianflone—Getty Images A passenger airliner arrives at Adler Airport ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics on January 31, 2014.

Threat of toothpaste explosives prompts curb on liquids

The Transportation Security Administration is temporarily banning travelers from bringing any liquid, gel or aerosol in their carry-on luggage on flights between the U.S. and Russia after a warning from the Department of Homeland Security that terrorists targeting the Olympic Games in Sochi might hide explosives in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes.

“As always our security posture, which at all times includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to respond and appropriately adapt to protect the American people from an ever evolving threat picture,” a DHS official said. “These measures include intelligence gathering and analysis, deployment of cutting edge technology, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers, temporarily restricting certain items and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public.”

The rule applies for the next 30 days. Travelers can still bring the items in checked bags.

MORE: Sochi 2014: Snowboarding, Skiing and Skating Ring in the Games

Russia banned liquids and gels from carry-ons one month ago as part of an effort to tighten security ahead of the Olympics, which has been the target of threats from Islamic militants in the region.

The opening ceremony of the Sochi Games is scheduled for Friday.

—with reporting by Zeke Miller

TIME olympics

Sochi 2014: Snowboarding, Skiing and Skating Ring in the Games

The 2014 Winter Olympics were off to an early start—the opening ceremony is tomorrow—with qualifying runs for snowboard slopestyle, women's moguls and team figure skating.

TIME olympics

The 20 Best Olympians To Follow on Instagram

They know the best filters for their Sochi pics

Like beautiful views, big air and athlete hijinks? We’ve rounded up the most fun and interesting athletes to follow on Instagram as they document their trip to Sochi. Follow them to get a behind-the-scenes look at the 2014 Winter Olympics or just check out the gorgeous pics and videos we loved below.

Bode Miller, Alpine Skier, Team USA

Olympic and World Cup championship gold medalist in skiing

Early morning inspection #Kitzbühel

A photo posted by Bode Miller (@millerbode) on

Bobby Brown, Freestyle Skier, Team USA

Freestyle skier and winner of both the SlopeStyle and Big Air events at the Winter X Games XIV

Joss Christensen, Freestyle Skier, Team USA

First-time Olympian in Sochi

Sequence of a sw dub 10 japan from West Coast Sessions 2011. Still one of the best jumps I've ever hit! #bigjump

A photo posted by Joss Christensen (@josschristensen) on

Julia Mancuso, Alpine Skier, Team USA

Won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics for the giant slalom and silver at the 2010 Winter Olympics for both downhill and combined

Ready and set #sochi2014. #SkiLikeNinjas

A photo posted by Julia Mancuso (@juliamancuso) on

Russ Henshaw, Freestyle Skier, Australian Olympic Team

Won a silver medal in Slopestyle at the Winter X Games XV

Boxing Day backies at @whistlerblackcomb | photo: @lauramechielsen

A photo posted by Russ Henshaw (@russhenshaw) on

Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jumper, Team USA

This is the first year the Olympics have a women’s ski jumping event. At only 19, Hendrickson has won U.S. title and a World Championship gold

Top of the hill in Sochi… Can't believe how long and hard Ive worked to stand here #sochi2014

A photo posted by Sarah Hendrickson (@schendrickson) on

Ted Ligety, Alpine Skier, Team USA

Won the 2006 Winter Olympics gold medal in Alpine skiing and is a four-time World Cup Champion

Yaaa @felixneureuther u were superman today. #kitzbuhel #sieger #winner @gopro

A photo posted by Ted Ligety (@ted_ligety) on

Greg Bretz, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Placed 12th in the 2010 Olympics

AMERICA!!!! 🇺🇸

A photo posted by Greg Bretz (@gregbretzz) on

Hannah Teter, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Won a gold medal in the halfpipe during the 2006 Winter Olympics

We have reached our cruising altitude, you are now free to move about the superpipe:) @gabe_lheureux photo

A photo posted by Hannah Teter (@hannahteter) on

Jamie Anderson, Snowboarding, Slopestyle, Team USA

Competing in the slopestyle’s Olympic debut in Sochi

Justin Reiter, Snowboarding, Alpine, Team USA

Earned a silver medal at the 2013 World Championships in parallel slalom

Walking on a dream. Guten Morgen Österreich.

A photo posted by Justin Reiter (@justin_reiter) on

Mark McMorris, Snowboarding, Slopestyle, Canadian Olympic Team

Won gold medals at both 2012 and 2013 Winter X Games in slopestyle

@ulrikbadertscher and I wishing you a happy New Years from the slopes😉

A video posted by Mark McMorris (@markmcmorris) on

Nate Holland, Snowboarding, Snowboardcross, Team USA

Has won seven X Games gold medals

#Seahawks #12thMan #Shredding @SquawValley #GoHawks #GoPro #GoProApp @gopro

A photo posted by Nate Holland (@nateholland) on

Taylor Gold, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Olympic rookie

Kate Hansen, Luge, Team USA

Won the USA Luge National Championship in 2013

Photo booth in the athlete village…get ready for some true gems over the next month @teamusa @usa_luge

A photo posted by Kate Hansen (@k8ertotz) on

Lolo Jones, Bobsled, Team USA

Competed as a hurdler in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics

You can dress me up all cute like a teddy bear but I'll still compete like a grizzly #TeamUSA #Sochi #Olympics

A photo posted by Lolo Jones (@lolojones) on

J.R. Celski, Short Track Speedskating, Team USA

Won two bronze medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics

Darth Vader status mang. @certifiedjeffsimon @j2k111 #tbt #Shanghai

A photo posted by JR Celski (@celskeet) on

Kelly Clark, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Won a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics and a bronze in 2010

It's the big show tonight! Women's pipe finals live on @ESPN 9ET. #Xgames

A photo posted by kelly clark (@kellyclarkfdn) on

Taylor Chace, Sled Hockey, Team USA

Won gold with his team in the 2010 BC Paralympic Winter Games

Bruins va Habs game with Billy , thanks for the tix #bruins ! Go #nepassage

A photo posted by Taylor Chace (@taylorchace) on

Monique Lamoureux, Women’s Hockey, Team USA

Won silver with Team USA in 2010 Winter Olympics with her twin sister Jocelyn

Check out the newest issue of Time Magazine. @jocelyneusa17 #teamusa

A photo posted by Monique Lamoureux (@moniquelam7) on

TIME olympics

Russia Pushes Back Against Sochi Complaints

Russian security forces patrol the streets as preparations continue for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor
Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters Russian security forces patrol the streets as preparations continue for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor Feb. 6, 2014.

Officials say the city is safe and that amenities are in working order

Russian officials stepped up efforts Thursday to dispute reports of poor conditions at hotels in the Olympics host city of Sochi and to tamp down security fears.

Dmitri Kozak, a Deputy Prime Minister, pushed back against complaints from journalists in Sochi that their hotel rooms are in miserable condition, the Wall Street Journal reports. Kozak said Thursday that with 100,000 guests staying in Russian hotels, there have been only 103 registered complaints (though he didn’t say what constitutes a registered complaint). He also awkwardly alluded to possible government surveillance of hotel rooms in arguing that some Westerners are purposely sabotaging Sochi’s image. “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” he said before an aide stopped a reporter from asking further questions, the Journal reports.

Kozak’s comments came after members of the media covering the Olympic Games quickly began posting complaints on Twitter about the condition of their rooms this week.

Russia is also working to combat the narrative that many world leaders are staying away from the Olympic Games in Sochi. Dmitri Chernyshenko, a top organizer of the Games, said Thursday that a record number of 65 world leaders are attending, the Associated Press reports, though the International Olympic Committee puts that number significantly lower. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are among several high-profile world leaders not attending the Games, which got under way Thursday before the opening ceremony on Friday.

(MORE: Sochi 2014: Snowboarding, Skiing and Skating Ring in the Games)

And Kozak looked to calm fears of a potential terrorist attack on Thursday, saying Sochi is as safe as any other city in the world. “There is no reason to believe that the level of danger in Sochi is greater than at any other point on the planet, be it Boston, London, New York or Washington,” he said.

TIME Television

Here’s How 30 Rock Would Have Lampooned the Sochi Olympics

30 Rock may be gone, but the legacy lives on

  • The Gang Goes to Russia

    30 Rock - Season 5
    NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    There’s been a flurry of news coming out of Sochi as journalists arrive in Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics — and if only our dearly departed 30 Rock was still in season, there’s no doubt that Tina Fey and company would find a hugely satisfying way to satirize the chaos in Russia.

    Since that’s unlikely to ever happen, we did the job for them.

  • Dirty Water

    Dirty Water
  • Fur Uniforms

    Fur Uniforms
  • Stray Dogs

    Stray Dogs
  • Yogurt

    Yogurt
  • Vladimir Putin

    Vladimir Putin
  • Willie Geist

    Today's Take
  • Doorknob Drama

    Doorknob Drama
  • The Internet is Down

    Internet Is Down
  • Missing Tracy

    Missing Tracy
  • Harvard Prank

    Harvard Prank
  • A High-Profile Cameo

    t.A.T.u's Cameo
  • No Light Bulbs

    30rock-1
TIME russia

Sochi Olympics Stirs Nationalism of an Exiled People

Circassians protest in Turkey against Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi
Sedat Suna / EPA Members of a Circassian ethnic group shout slogans during a protest against the Olympics in front of the Russian Consulate in Istanbul, Feb. 2, 2014.

Long before Pussy Riot or gay rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community native to Sochi's black pebble beaches clamored loudly against the games

Last July, Doku Umarov, a shadowy militant leader operating in Russia’s North Caucasus, urged Muslims through a video message to launch attacks on the Winter Olympics, which begin this week in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The events to be held there, Umarov claimed, constitute “Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors.” His dark pronouncements, as well as terror strikes that recently hit a southern Russian city, set the tone: Sochi’s Games have become the most anxiety-ridden and militarized Olympiad in recent memory. If there is any sort of dancing to be done, it will involve quite a few heavy army boots. But what of those ancestors’ bones?

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.

By the mid-19th century, Tsarist Russia sought to expand its dominion to the south, eyeing the ancestral lands of the Circassians and other realms of the Caucasus, which were earlier under the loose control of a declining Ottoman Empire. In 1864, Russian forces defeated the last resisting armies of the Circassians and carried out “the first modern genocide on European soil,” writes Oliver Bullough, author of Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus, a critically-acclaimed book on the region.

The conquest, by some accounts, led to an ethnic cleansing: during the great expulsion of the Circassians, violent deportations, slaughters of civilians and the onset of famine and disease decimated half of their then 2 million strong population. Russian colonization followed. According to the Financial Times, Sochi’s lavish ski complex at Krasnaya Polyana is “built on the site where most of the Circassians ‘cleansed’ from the surrounding region froze and starved to death—almost exactly 150 years ago—as they awaited deportation.” Those who survived mostly fled to the Ottoman Empire, which itself was soon to collapse. Currently, some two to five million people in Turkey claim Circassian or other Caucasian heritage. Circassian diasporas exist in Jordan, Syria, Israel and even as far afield as New Jersey.

But after more than a century in exile, their hold on the global imagination is thin. That wasn’t always the case: Circassian women, renowned for their beauty, were lusted after by generations of monarchs across the Mediterranean world, while early European Orientalists obsessed over the Circassians’ elegant coats and robes. Still, the exoticism of the past has yielded no clout in the present and some liken the Circassians’ plight to the much-diminished Native Americans of North America.

A Circassian lobby group in Israel wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee after it awarded the Winter Olympics to Sochi, insisting that “we regard the holding of the Olympic Games on our homeland in the places of mass graves and genocide as an act of vandalism.” The IOC did not even respond to the message. Months of protests by Turkish Circassians outside Russian institutions in Istanbul and elsewhere raised awareness, but achieved little else. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to Sochi on Friday; Russia is a key source of oil and natural gas for Turkey.

In Russia, where some 700,000 Circassians — known as Adyghe — live, their objections have been met by silence and intimidation. Decades of Tsarist and Soviet population policies have seen myriad communities dispersed and relocated, borders redrawn and ethnic homelands erased from the map. The Circassians’ experience is a particularly brutal one, but they are hardly alone. And Russia’s rulers are in no mood to pander. Bullough cites Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a stand on Russian history during a speech in 2007: “It must not be allowed that we are forced to feel a sense of guilt,” he said.

When Putin made his pitch for Sochi, reports the FT, he hailed its rich cultural past, citing the coastal colonies of the ancient Greeks. But, to the ire of Circassians around the world, he made no mention of the people Russia removed from its soil. In recent weeks, Circassian activists and members of civil society who may have voiced their disquiet over Sochi have been detained or called in for questioning in neighboring Russian republics. The contrast between this and the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where Canadian organizers made special effort to spotlight their native inheritance, could not be more stark.

“The Russians have not preserved the memory of their wars for the Caucasus,” writes Bullough, “and the ghosts of their victims will haunt them till they do.” The terror fears surrounding Sochi are in part a consequence of this. But that’s hardly a consolation for the millions of Circassians whose own history has been scribbled away in the footnotes of others and who may look at the celebrations taking place in their homeland only with a sense of loss.

TIME How-To

Olympics on TV, Online and in Apps: How to Catch All the Action

AFP / Getty Images

From television to apps to social media, we'll show you how to stay on top of this year's games.

Even if you haven’t been struck with Olympic fever quite yet, the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this week is sure to ramp up your excitement to Olympic levels. But with more than 2,500 athletes competing in 98 different events, how is it possible to keep up with everything this year’s games have to offer?

From television to apps to social media, we’ll show you how to stay on top of this year’s games.

Catch the Olympics on NBC

NBC’s time-delayed coverage starts on Thursday, Feb. 6 (though the opening ceremonies are on Friday), and runs through Feb. 23. During this time, NBC’s prime time schedule will be taken over by the Olympics so you won’t be able to see your favorite shows until the games are over. Cord cutters should invest in an HD-capable antenna to get the best view.

However, NBC will only be broadcasting a selection of Olympic events, and mostly during prime time. For the entire show, you’ll need to tune in to NBC cable sports affiliate NBCSN. NBCSN will air live coverage starting Saturday, Feb. 8 at 3 a.m. ET.

Stream the games online

You’ll be able to stream Olympics video on demand from NBC’s website NBCOlympics.com right to your mobile device or laptop. There is also the free NBC Sports Live Extra app for over 1,000 hours of coverage and all 98 medal ceremonies:

The catch is you’ll have to log on with information from your cable provider in order to view any video — but once you do, you can stream everything the Olympics has to offer.

If you’re a cord-cutter or you’re only interested in catching Olympics highlights, look to YouTube. The YouTube pages for the Olympics and NBC Olympics will have highlights and the latest video coverage.

Apps for the latest Olympic news

Stay on top of Team USA’s progress with the Road to Sochi app for iPhone and Android, and Windows phones featuring news, scores and the stories behind the Americans participating in this year’s games.

For updates beyond Team USA, you’ll want the Sochi 2014 Results app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phones. It’s the quickest way to find schedules, scores and other news straight from Sochi.

Follow the Olympics on social media

Social media is the place to get Olympic news fast, from the latest scores to live photos and video. NBC will have the official word on the games, and they’re available wherever you want to follow them. Find NBC on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine. Not enough? Follow the official pages for Sochi on Twitter and Facebook or the Olympics on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

If you’re craving still more Olympic excitement, NPR has created easy-to-follow Twitter lists of athletes and media attending this year’s games, so you won’t miss the action from any perspective.

If you want to follow a specific athlete, check out the official Olympics social directory, where you can browse or search for specific Olympic social accounts. Many athletes are updating their public Facebook profile pages as well. You can search for them by name in Facebook or follow the Facebook Pages of entire teams. Here’s a short list for you start with:

If you want to keep it simple, then just Like the official Facebook page for the U.S. Olympic team.

Remember that you can search on Facebook like you can on Twitter by using hastags in the search box. Any public post using that hashtag on Facebook will be shown in the results. Key hashtags for the Sochi Games are:

  • #goteamusa
  • #Olympics
  • #seeyouinsochi
  • #sochi2014

Instagram is the place to see the latest photos from the Olympic Village and more. Start by following Team USA and the U.S. Paralympics. Then keep an eye out for photos at these key Olympic locations:

However you prefer to take in media, tech offers you plenty of options for keeping up with the Winter Olympics. Now there’s nothing to do but enjoy the Games and see who takes home the gold.

This article was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME russia

Russian Official Says Sochi is as Safe as Anywhere

Says terror attack no more likely than in New York or London

A top Russian official said Thursday that the threat of a terror attack at the Sochi Winter Olympics is no greater than anywhere else in the world.

“There is no reason to believe that the level of danger in Sochi is greater than at any other point on the planet, be it Boston, London, New York or Washington,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told reporters, according to Reuters.

Security is high ahead of the Winter Games, which got underway Thursday before opening ceremonies on Friday, and more than 30,000 security personnel have been deployed in the city amid terror threats. In December, at least 34 people were killed in twin suicide attacks in the southern city of Volgograd, about 400 miles from Sochi.

“We can guarantee the safety of people as well as any other government hosting any mass event,” Kozak said.

[Reuters]

TIME russia

U.N. Chief Calls for ‘Olympic Truce’

Ban Ki-moon appeals to warring parties to lay down arms and speaks up for LGBT rights around the world

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for people at war throughout the world the lay down their arms and observe observe an “Olympic Truce.”

“I repeat my call, again and again, for all warring parties to lay down their weapons during the Games,” Ban said, addressing the International Olympic Committee on the eve of the Winter Games in Sochi. Citing conflicts in Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan, he said a truce would allow for “life-saving humanitarian aid to suffering people,” the Associated Press reports.

Ban also criticized Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” laws, saying the international community must oppose any attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century,” he said.

One of the largest events that brings much of the world together, the Olympics are always tinged with politics, and this year is no exception. Russian President Vladimir Putin chose Sochi, reportedly one of his favorite vacation haunts, as the place to showcase Russia’s reemergence on the world stage. But cost overruns and terror threats have dominated the headlines, while Russia and the West remain at odds over the ongoing civil war in Syria and political turmoil in Ukraine.

If history is any indication, the momentum of international politics will continue apace, and the problems facing the international community will still be problematic two weeks from now. But the Olympics are a grand stage—one of the largest available—for an international leader to capture the attention of the world. While many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, are staying home, Ban chose to deliver the keynote address to the IOC’s general assembly, which is the first by a U.N. secretary-general. He will also take part in Friday’s opening ceremonies. A U.N. spokeswomen told the AP that Ban’s participation is indicative of the “growing relationship between the IOC and the United Nations.”

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