A vibrant and captivating show at the Fisht Stadium opened the Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi tonight. The Ceremony started at 20:14 Moscow time, symbolizing the year of the first Paralympic Games in Russia. For two hours, spectators of the Ceremony watched a story about the power of spirit, overcoming barriers and the limitless possibilities of everyone. The leading performers of the show were the Russian opera singer and one of the most famous sopranos in the world Maria Gulegina, and popular TV show medalist and singer Yulia Samoilova. The Opening Ceremony demonstrated inclusiveness, uniting on one stage artists with and without impairments: approximately 150 people with impairments performed in the arena.
Two Oscar award winners participated in the Ceremony at the same time: famous Russian animator Aleksandr Petrov and production designer Eugenio Caballero from Mexico. More than 2,500 “Sochi 2014” volunteers were also involved.
Concept of the Opening Ceremony
The captivating and touching performance entitled "Breaking the Ice" aimed to highlight the power of the human spirit, and showed how important it is to break the barriers of misunderstanding between people. The action developed along the central topics of the ceremony: "Fragility and Balance", telling the story of how changeable human life is, and "Together", showing that together we can overcome any obstacles and discover new ways of communication.
The storyline of the show reflected the positive change in relation to people with impairments, which in recent years has taken place in Russian society thanks to the preparation for the Sochi Games.
One of the central characters of the Opening Ceremony was the Firebird - a magic bird from Russian fairy tales. Its image, which symbolically linked all chapters of the show and expressed the soul of Russia, was exclusively created for the Ceremony by famous Russian animator and Oscar winner Aleksandr Petrov. Flying over every region of Russia, the fabulous Firebird saw large cities and small villages, snow-capped mountains and icy reflective lakes, and completed its flight at the Fisht stadium.
Aleksandr Petrov paints on glass with a unique technique. For the Opening Ceremony, Aleksandr created four animation fragments: to create one second of animated film, he needed to create 12 pictures.
126 members of the Todes, the largest dance group in Russia, came to the Fisht stadium. Dressed in red, white and blue costumes, the dancers marched across the stage in flawless synchronous harmony, performing complex formations. Then the Russian flag appeared at the stadium, carried by eight people:
- Russian violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov
- Russian gymnast, four-times champion, twice silver and six-time bronze medalist Aleksey Nemov
- Nine-times champion, twice silver and three-times bronze medalist of the Paralympic Games in cross-country skiing and biathlon Valery Kupchinskiy
- Thirteen-times champion of the Paralympic Games in athletics Rimma Batalova
- Russian actress Dina Korzun
- Twice champion at the Paralympic Games in biathlon Vladimir Kiselev
- Four-times champion, three-times silver and twice bronze medalist at the Paralympic Games in ski racing and biathlon Lyubov Vasilyeva
- First head coach of the USSR and Russian athletics team Petr Buylov
The flag was raised to the National Anthem of the Russian Federation. The anthem was performed by the All-Russian joint choir comprising 400 participants from leading ensembles of Russia. The mass choir was supported by a children's choir of 35 gifted young singers with impairments.
Firebirds and snow
When the Russian flag was raised on the stage, 36 glasses emerged, on which the famous multi-instrumentalist Andree-Anne Gingras-Roy played. She performed a variation of the "Sugar Plum Fairy" and "Waltz of the Snowflakes" by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Over 500 young ballerinas came on stage and formed snowflake patterns, which then became an outline of the Paralympic Torch in the form of a feather.
The music transitioned from Tchaikovsky to the suite "Pictures at an Exhibition" by Mussorgsky. Acrobats took to the stage, traveling around the stadium floor in large transparent spheres and soaring in the air. The choreographed performance conveys the idea of a combination of strength and fragility, one of the central lines of the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Sochi.
Parade of Athletes
The traditional parade of athletes took place in a Magic Forest of LEDs made of over 200 illuminated tubes that took on the color of the national flag of the delegation appearing in the arena. Paralympic athletes were taken through the magical forest to their places by fairly-tale forest creatures and Firebirds.
After the athletes' parade, on the stage represented by an ice lake, 300 fishermen with rods and lanterns appeared, 95 of whom are dancers with impairments, and drew magical patterns, ancient Russian symbols and signs on the "ice". At the same time, Yulia Samoylova, accompanied by the A. A. Yurlova Academic Capella Choir, performed the song "Together" (If You Need a Friend).
Spectators looked back on the most exciting moments of the Paralympic Torch Relay, which were shown on big screens.
President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko and President of the International Paralympic Committee Sir Philip Craven gave official speeches on stage. The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin declared open the Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi.
Then dancers from the Todes troupe reappeared on stage. At this time, marchers were dressed in red, blue and green costumes - colors of the Paralympic symbol of the Agitos.
The Paralympic flag was carried by eight honored representatives of the Paralympic Movement and charity foundations in Russia.
The Paralympic Anthem ("Hymn de l'Avenir") played in the arena, after which one athlete, one judge and one coach in succession took the Paralympic oath of allegiance to the ideas of the Paralympic Movement, sport and fairness within it.
Breaking the Ice
The final chapter of the Ceremony under the title "Breaking the Ice" began with a performance based on the plays of Anton Chekhov. Under the Cossack song "You, Russia, Mother Russia" sung by 400 singers, five large tables were placed on the stage, behind which guests sat. Accordion virtuoso and visually impaired musician Alexei Levchuk, performed a song written for the film "A Cruel Romance" together with a group of gypsies.
Every minute the level of emotions intensified as laughter, shouting and cheering filled the arena. Suddenly the ice chandelier under the ceiling split into many small pieces, and the guests, delighted by the whirlwind of celebration, smashed plates and glasses.
Moments later the flash of fireworks and the deep, low sound of a ship's horn signified the appearance of the huge Mir icebreaker, which sailed on stage and singer Maria Gulegina sang "Cossack Lullaby," based on the poetry by Mikhail Lermontov.
The icebreaker easily crushed the blocks of ice in its path, as if breaking the barriers of misunderstanding between people. The author of this unique set, which is 42 meters in length, was the Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero of Mexico.
When the ship sailed out of the blocks of ice, the word "Vmeste" (Together) in Russian and English appeared. Then the words turned into the emblem of the Paralympic Games, the Agitos.
Lighting of the Paralympic Flame
The culmination of the Opening Ceremony was, by tradition, the lighting of the Paralympic flame. The first torchbearer in the arena of the Fisht stadium was four-time Paralympic Games champion Alexei Ashapatov. He passed the Torch to triple Paralympic champion in athletics among the visually impaired, Olga Semenova. She passed the Torch to the three-time champion and two-time silver medalist in Paralympic ski racing among athletes with physical impairments, Taras Kryzhanovsky, and to the eight-time Paralympic swimming champion among the visually impaired, Oksana Savchenko.
The Paralympic Cauldron Lighting Ceremony was entrusted to the six-time champion, three-time Paralympic silver and bronze medalist in ski racing among athletes with physical impairments, and mayor of the Mountain Paralympic Village, Sergey Shilov and two-time Paralympic champion, silver and bronze medalist in swimming among athletes with impairments, Olesya Vladykina.
Together, the athletes lit the Minor Cauldron mounted at the foot of the Main Cauldron of the Paralympic flame, from which the flame was passed from the bottom up, and lit the main symbol of the Paralympic Games. The lighting of the flame was held to the music of Symphony No. 5 by Tchaikovsky. The Paralympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony was concluded by a spectacular fireworks show.
Konstantin Ernst, the chief creative producer of the Ceremony:
"The theme of "Togetherness" became the Ceremony’s keynote. Together we can achieve many things. Together we can overcome any obstacle and break any stereotypes. I am happy that during the preparation of this Ceremony I received help from the same magnificent creative team with whom we have been working together on the Ceremonies of the Olympic Games."
Aleksandr Petrov, Painter, Director, Animator
“Equilibrium is only a temporary state between a rise and a fall. But the moment when harmony is reached is very fragile and unstable and requires a lot of effort not to lose it. This is what our ceremony is about! The Paralympic movement is meant to help people believe in themselves, find harmony not only with oneself, but acquire freedom of movement, thought and self-expression. The example of the Paralympians lights our hearts with pride and admiration of the human spirit strength.”
Eugenio Caballero, author of the icebreaker decorations:
"It seems to me that the movement is constantly in search of equilibrium. When we find balance, we understand how fragile it is. It exists for a few moments, and then disappears and you continue to find it again and again. This brittleness leads to the movement cycle, and thus becomes the source of creation. Paralympic athletes, in their search for equilibrium, convert fragility into a great inspirational force that shows us how much strong human spirit can be."
Notes to the Editor
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Sochi 2014 Games were one of the most innovative from a technical standpoint. The organizer's creative idea was revealed using the original, high-tech scenery, moved with the help of a sophisticated suspension system.
The Fisht Stadium stage was an area of around 8,500 sq. m. and was equipped with 25 elevator lifts and 40 closing hatches for the pieces of scenery.
In total the show involved 41,000 pieces of scenery and props, and 3,300 costumes. More than 300 items were props made of ice and more than 990 were made from artificial ice.
One of the main decorative parts of the ceremony was the LED "forest", which was a composition of 204 light tubes at a height of 12 meters each. If all the light tubes involved in the ceremony were put in a line they would be around 2.5 km.
The Paralympic flag
The Paralympic flag was first presented at the 2004 Games in Athens. It depicts the Paralympic "Agitos" (from Latin "I move"), consisting of three hemispheres of red, green and blue. The symbol represents the role of the International Paralympic Committee in uniting athletes with impairments, who inspire and impress the world. The three red, green and blue colors symbolize mind, body and soul.