International Ice Hockey Federation

Tretiak lights up the Olympics

Tretiak lights up the Olympics

Opening ceremony in Russian style

Published 08.02.2014 02:20 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
Tretiak lights up the Olympics
A gigantic firework illuminates the sky over the Shayba Arena and the Bolshoy Ice Dome after the opening ceremony. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Russian hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak lit the Olympic Cauldron at the culmination of the opening ceremony for the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

The three-time Olympic champion joined celebrated figure skater Irina Rodnina to set the lantern ablaze after a three-hour ceremony which offered a whistle-stop tour of Russia’s history and culture, from ancient ritual to the space age.

And Tretiak was not the only hockey figure involved. Another legend, Vyacheslav Fetisov, was among the Russian personalities carrying the Olympic flag. Four nations – Canada, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia – picked players from their rosters to carry their flags at the big event. Hayley Wickenheiser, Sandis Ozolins, Zdeno Chara and Tomaz Razingar enjoyed the honour.

Elsewhere in the ceremony, meanwhile, visitors to the Games were invited to explore a wider range of Russian culture. The cast of the big event ranged from Peter the Great, sailing his crew across a stormy sea to St. Petersburg, to a fiery pagan sun symbol hauled across the vast Fisht Stadium by a troika of giant illuminated horses.

Music and dance were the unifying features of the evening. Audiences were whisked to the ballrooms of Imperial Russia for a recreation of Natasha Rostova’s ball from Tolstoy’s epic ‘War and Peace’, while one of the most effective scenes neatly captured the complexities of the Soviet era with a stunning display of design inspired by the avant-garde and rapid industrialization of the 1930s.

By adopting some of the characteristic design traits which have captured the imagination of people far beyond Russia’s borders, the show effectively stepped away from the potential controversies of Russia’s recent history and presented an image which could appeal to a wider audience. On stage, beneath a thundering steam locomotive, dancers delivered a choreography which reflected elements of the ground-breaking balletic works associated with Russia’s long stage tradition.

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Indeed, much of the show was geared towards challenging some of the critical perceptions of the host nation. Fears of over-zealous security were countered by the ‘singing policemen’ – Russia’s Interior Ministry Choir reprising its YouTube smash hit version of Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’.

Stereotypes of a harsh and unwelcoming land were answered by making the main character of the evening a young girl called Lyubov – a Russian name meaning ‘love’. If early attempts to get members of the audience to hug one another proved a little cloying, there was a clear feel-good factor around the stadium by the event’s conclusion.

The same feel-good factor also extended to the welcome for the national teams. Not surprisingly, Russia got a rapturous reception, and there was great applause for neighbouring Ukraine and Belarus. But it was Venezuela’s three-man squad which first got a big ovation, skipping and dancing with their flag to the delight of the crowd. Whatever concerns may linger about political conflicts between Russia and other nations, every visiting team was greeted with respect and enthusiasm.

For all the criticism that has come Sochi’s way in the run-up to the games, it was clear that the Olympic venue’s public face is ready to bask in the world’s spotlight – and people in the arenas are determined to make it as successful as possible. With the hockey program due to start in just a few hours as Finland’s women take on the USA, the preparation is finally over and the action is ready to start.


The Games can begin: The Olympic Cauldron is lit. The Bolshoy Ice Dome in the background will be the primary of two ice hockey venues. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images


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