The XXII Winter Olympic Games are on after opening officially in a sparkling, star-studded show in Sochi. For the next 16 days the world’s top athletes will be going for it, competing hard with every sinew and fiber.

For more visit RT’s Sochi 2014 page

This is the first time Russia has hosted the Winter Olympics and the breathtaking opening ceremony did full justice to the importance of the event.

The show opened with a video, introducing foreign guests to the Russian alphabet and scenes of culture and history matched with letters, one of each stood for a particular person, notion or invention, portraying famous moments throughout the country’s history.

Over 40,000 spectators from all over the world watched the opening extravaganza, and the introduction of the athletes in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, signaling the start of the full sporting program of the Winter Olympics.

The parade of nations, featuring more than 3,000 athletes from a record number of 88 countries, delighted the crowd, and this time it was more dynamic than ever.

The highlight of the parade was a special floor where an image of the earth was magically projected. The stunt included a really smooth touch: An image of the globe from outer space rotated every time a new country was announced, pinpointing the location of that country.

To give over 40,000 spectators a better view of their country’s greeting, the athletes appeared from the heart of their sovereign territory and then walked into the stadium, just like the ancient heroes of Greece.

All countries were introduced in alphabetical order according to their Russian spelling. Traditionally, Greece – the birthplace of Olympic competition – was the first to enter the stadium.

As host country, Russia took the stage last, marching to the upbeat dance song “Not going to get us” by Russian pop band t.A.T.u, a girl band that was extremely popular in the mid-2000s and the country’s most successful pop export to the West.

The two-and-a-half hour show took us on a riveting 18-part rollercoaster ride through Russian history, from the times of Peter the Great to the modern era, focusing on major cultural events. It portrayed the path Russia took to become the country it is now.

The actors on stage reenacted episodes from Russia’s most beloved folk tales as the colorful dream of little girl named Lyuba continues.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach took the stage to call on the athletes to compete in a spirit of fair rivalry. He then handed the microphone to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who declared the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games open.

Piano virtuoso, Denis Matsuev, and opera soprano, Anna Netrebko, gave a rousing performance of the Olympic anthem.

Of course, lighting the Olympic cauldron for the Games is one of the most crucial moments of the ceremony.

Ice skating legend, Irina Rodnina and Soviet legend Vladislav Tretiak, now Russian Hockey Federation president, have carried the Olympic torch to light the cauldron, after the flame’s unprecedented journey all across Russia and beyond, to the North Pole, the cosmos, and Europe’s highest mountain peak.

The cauldron and festivities will continue throughout the Games and the Olympic flag will remain raised at the top of the hill.

The ceremony’s fiery finish featured over 3,500 fireworks. Surely an Olympian feat in itself! The average weight of the firecrackers was around 22.5 tons, while the heaviest weighed in at 4.8 tons!

Athletes will compete in over 15 disciplines in seven sports. 12 new events have been shoe-horned into the crowded Olympic schedule, including the figure skating team event, slopestyle and half-pipe skiing (both men’s and women’s).

Over the next 16 days a record number of Olympic medals will be presented – a total of 98 sets, that is 12 more than in Vancouver 2010. Each gold medal weights 531g, while silvers are 525g and the bronzes are 460g.

Ten Sochi Olympics winners will get an out-of-this-world touch when they receive their gold medals on February 15. Each medal will be embedded with tiny fragments of last year’s Chelyabinsk meteorite.

 

A picture taken on February 7, 2014 shows horse shaped light displays during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli )A picture taken on February 7, 2014 shows horse shaped light displays during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. (AFP Photo / Alberto Pizzoli )

 

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)

 

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov)

 

Performers take part during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014.(Reuters / Issei Kato)Performers take part during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014.(Reuters / Issei Kato)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stands to declare the 2014 Winter Olympics open during the opening ceremony on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.(AFP Photo / David Goldman)Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stands to declare the 2014 Winter Olympics open during the opening ceremony on February 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.(AFP Photo / David Goldman)

 

The Olympic flag is brought on stage during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)The Olympic flag is brought on stage during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)

 

Russian gymnast and Olympian medalist Alina Kabaeva hold up the Olympic torch during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)Russian gymnast and Olympian medalist Alina Kabaeva hold up the Olympic torch during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Damien Meyer)

 

Lit figures are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. (Reuters / Jim Young)Lit figures are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. (Reuters / Jim Young)

 

Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Odd Andersen) Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi.(AFP Photo / Odd Andersen)