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Performers with balloons representing St. Basil's cathedral.
Clive Mason / Getty Images

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.

Olympic Critics Turn Sochi’s Opening Gala into a Pity Party

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

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.

The woman lighting the Olympic flame is Irina Rodnina, the woman who tweeted a shockingly racist picture of Obama with a banana.

— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) February 7, 2014

1:51 p.m.

The woman rumored to be Putin's girlfriend Alina Kabayeva one of the #olympics2014 torchbearers. in #Russia

— Matt Gutman (@mattgutmanABC) February 7, 2014

1:42 p.m.

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:

Not only is Medvedev five seats down from Putin, but he's sleeping. Who remembers the Vlad-Dima tandem now? @tvjihad

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

1:17 p.m.

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:

If that was an artistic rendition of Russian history, they took a lot of license. No perestroika. A few snippets of WW2.

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

1:12 p.m.


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

Mark Humphrey / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony.

1:08 p.m.

Unlike Beijing, this opening ceremony is all done for the domestic audience. What foreigners would get any of these references?

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

1:06 p.m.

Some of the Brazilians at #Sochi2014 were born in Brazil but raised abroad. Media here affectionately call them the delegation's *gringos*

— Simon Romero (@viaSimonRomero) February 7, 2014

1:02 p.m.

Alright, doubling down on the Sergei Eisenstein aesthetic now. Where did the cuddly leopards and teddies go?

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

12:59 p.m.

I think at this point no one's worried about the toilet in their hotel room.

— Ellen Barry (@EllenBarryNYT) February 7, 2014

Seeing the #OpeningCeremony live is even more surreal than I expected #cbcolympics

— MoniKa Platek (@MonikaPlatek) February 7, 2014

12:58 p.m.

Jim Young / Reuters

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony.

12:57 p.m.

War and Peace, Tolstoy. Tolstoy, Train. Train, constructivism. See what they did there? Makes total sense. #Sochi

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

12:51 p.m.

Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' told via the medium of dance #OpeningCeremony #Sochi2014

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

Ok, I'm digging the baroque literary recreations. War and Peace at Sochi now.

— Ishaan Tharoor (@ishaantharoor) February 7, 2014

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.

Don't know if those canon explosions came through on NBC. But a bit too loud for a crowd this jumpy from all the toothpaste bomber talk

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

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

12:40 p.m.

Welcome to #Sochi2014 #OpeningCeremony Peter the Great!

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

12:38 p.m.

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:

The Troika was the method of transport across Russia in the 18th century #OpeningCeremony

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

12:29 p.m.

Meet the official #Sochi2014 Mascots: Bear, Hare and Leopard! #OpeningCeremony #Sochi2014

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

12:25 p.m.

Okay. I wrote about Russian stereotypes, but there's a guy marching in the Russian delegation...talking on his cell phone. #OpeningCeremony

— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) February 7, 2014

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.

And t.A.T.u. plays Team Russia out

— Megan Gibson (@MeganJGibson) February 7, 2014

Ok, t.A.T.u is playing as Team Russia comes out. That settles the whole gay propaganda issue then, right? maybe?

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

12:23 p.m.

More strategic Olympic seating: A cluster of 'Stans is always safer than spreading them around via @gkates

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

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.

Jamaica is in the house! #CoolRunnings #Sochi2014

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

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

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.

Team Ukraine gets the loudest cheer I've heard so far. #euromaidan #sochi

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

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

"The man they call Big Z, Zdeno Chara, the tallest professional ice hockey player in the NHL in North America" - BBC

— Bonk's Mullet (@BonksMullet) February 7, 2014

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


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:

12:02 p.m.

10 #LGBT protesters arrested at Red Square in Moscow the minute #Sochi2014 has started
via @EvgenyFeldman

— вареничок.еріставі 🇺🇦🏳️‍🌈 (@maksymeristavi) February 7, 2014

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

Presidential seating arrangement slam: Ukraine all lonely behind Belarus and Armenia. via @Ukroblogger

— Simon Shuster (@shustry) February 7, 2014

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.

Unsurprisingly, the Canadian team is the biggest with 221 athletes

— Megan Gibson (@MeganJGibson) February 7, 2014

11:52 a.m.

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


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.

There are a heck of a lot of empty seats at the #OpeningCeremony in #Sochi2014.

— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) February 7, 2014

11:41 a.m.

The team members parade has begun with #TeamGreece Guess who is going to be last? #OpeningCeremony

— Sochi 2014 (@Sochi2014) February 7, 2014

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?

Four Olympic Rings?

— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 7, 2014

Here's what those rings were supposed to look like #gcamSochi

— Owen Gibson (@owen_g) February 7, 2014

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:

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

11:05 a.m.

Ready. Set. #OpeningCeremony. About to begin here in Sochi. Watch on @NBC at 7:30pm ET #GoTeamUSA

— Team USA (@TeamUSA) February 7, 2014

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

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:

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