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SOCHI, February 07, 7:02 /ITAR-TASS/. The XXII Olympic Winter Games will open in Sochi on Friday, February 7.
The opening ceremony will begin at Sochi’s Fisht Stadium at 20:14 Moscow time (16:14 GMT). The Olympic flag with five rings symbolizing the unity of athletes around the world will be hoisted and the Olympic flame will be lit.
The promoters keep the details of the opening ceremony secret and have disclosed only a tiny bit of information to President Vladimir Putin who inspected the Olympic facilities many times.
The biggest intrigue is who will actually lit the flame in the stadium cauldron. Some say these may be one of the outstanding Soviet athletes such as Irina Rodnina, Vladislav Tretyak or Vyacheslav Fetisov.
By tradition, all Olympic teams will march around the stadium in the beginning. The Russian flag will be carried by bobsledder Alexander Zubkov.
The first to step on the stadium grounds with the national flag of Greece will be cross-country skier Panagiota Tsakiri, to be followed by other teams in French alphabetical order.
Three thousand athletes and 3,000 members of delegations from 88 countries will participate in the Olympic Games to be held from February 7 to February 23, and 700 athletes and 700 members of delegations from more than 40 countries will participate in the Paralympic Games to take place from March 7 to March 16.
More than 40 world leaders and heads of international organizations will be among the spectators at the Olympics opening ceremony on February 7. Overall, over 60 heads of state and government will attend the Olympic and Paralympic events.
Sochi was elected at the IOC session in Guatemala on July 4, 2007. Eleven new sports facilities were constructed in Sochi in preparation for the event. The events are organised within two clusters, a mountain cluster and a coastal cluster located 48 kilometers apart, each of which has its own Olympic Village. The central facility of the coastal cluster is the Olympic Park, which accommodates the Olympic Stadium, the Bolshoi (large) Ice Palace, the Maly (small) Ice Palace, the Olympic Curling Centre, The Olympic Skating Centre (for figure skating and short track speed skating), and the Olympic Oval for speed skating. The mountain cluster includes biathlon and skiing facilities, a bobsleigh and luge centre, a set of ski jumping ramps, a snowboarding park and freestyle centre. Following the Olympic Games, the sports facilities will be used to develop tourism, and Sochi will become a year-round resort city. For Russia these are the second Olympics (after the XXII Summer Olympic Games held in Moscow in 1980), but the first Winter Olympics.
The closing ceremony will be held on February 23.