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2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Opening ceremonies filled with Russian history

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The 22nd Winter Olympics is now underway amidst continued controversy. Prior to the opening ceremonies on Friday, NBC presented a 30-minute pre-telecast on the points of interest of Sochi.

Viewers learned about Russia’s vast winter hinterlands, yet it never hosted a Winter Olympics before, only the Summer Games in 1980.

Tennis star and Bradenton resident Maria Sharapova informed viewers she lived in Sochi when she was two years old. At age seven she left for the U.S. Sharapova showed NBC Olympic correspondent Maria Carillo where she use to practice hitting tennis balls.

She talked about how Sochi was the best kept secret for Russians, because it’s a famous resort city during the summer. Now the whole world knows about Sochi.

Inside Fisht Olympic Stadium the ceremonies began with an introduction into the Russian alphabet. Then its on to Russia’s vast geography, culture and history through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl. She is taken high above the stadium on wires. It almost takes your breath away, because there’s no safety net below.

During this intro phase is when the glitch occurred with the snowflakes turning into five Olympic rings. Instead it was only four rings and a remaining snowflake.

The Parade of Nations began in the traditional order, only in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Team USA was showcased in the middle of the pack of nations wearing their colorful sweaters.

Cameras were situated in the holding area where athletes awaited their turn. You saw a unique view as if walking amongst the American contingent. This was the largest amount of U.S. winter athletes ever sent, totaling 230.

Former Sochi resident Maria Sharapova was the first of six Russian athletes as she entered the stadium with the Olympic torch to pass it on. The final torch bearers were a three-time gold medalist in pairs figure skating and an Olympic hockey player.

After the ceremonies, Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer spoke with Sharapova. She first clarified she was not born in Sochi, but in the region of Siberia. When she moved to the U.S., Maria stated it was to Bradenton, Florida. Her relatives from Sochi were in the audience, making this an emotional and memorable event.