The dazzling display at the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games left the whole world breathless. Every brilliant turn of the show was a new photo-opportunity. That explains why it was so hard for us to pick out the15 most memorable moments. 

AN HOUR BEFORE THE SHOW

Some details of the opening ceremony were revealed just an hour before the show. Konstantin Ernst, the great mind behind the performance, gave in to the journalistic pressure and spilled at least some of the beans. He admitted the show would consist of 18 chapters from Russian history squeezed into 2.5 hours, the national team would parade to the sounds of ‘Not Gonna Get Us’, a hit from the once very popular band t.A.T.u.   Opera singer Anna Netrebko would also sing the national anthem. 

But the festive Olympic spirit was spreading across Sochi long before. 

At Sochi airport, the arriving spectators were greeted by members of Coca-Cola cheering "We’re very happy you’ve come to Sochi" 

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

The most impatient could choose to go to the Olympic Park straight from the airport. It was open from 6 in the evening. 

Слайд-шоу: Olympic Games Opening Ceremony


Prior to the opening there were more than just journalists, volunteers and spectators.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

One minute before the ceremony. 

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Nearly no free spaces. And those spots still available will be taken by athletes from the national teams after the parade. 40,000 people in all!

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

SOCHI 2014 OPENING CEREMONY

There was a lot of speculation about the main storyline of the ceremony. But no one was even close.

The beginning of the show. Athletes come out in to the main Olympic arena. A projection of unbelievable resolution shows a picture of their respective countries. Konstantin Ernst promised this part of the show would be very dynamic, saying usually it's a little neglected. In Sochi they did it differently. 

The Greeks, who were the founders of the Olympic movement, were the first ones to enter the Fisht Olympic Stadium.  We will skip straight to the Russian team - 223 athletes. The biggest national team at the Games Самая. The next biggest teams came from Canada and the US. Make sure you pay attention to the Olympic Uniforms.  

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

The main character in the ceremony is 11-year-old Lisa from Krasnodar. She was picked from 8000 candidates. She played the role of Lyubov (the name translates as Love), a girl who is sleeping and seeing Russia’s history in her dreams.

First it's the alphabet. Tolstoy is at Т. Russian poet Pushkin is at Ъ - a soundless letter was always at the end of his name in the 18th century. The very last Russian letter Я is assigned to Russia (it's also the last letter in the name of the country). Lyubov is symbolizing Russia. She is a small girl flying in her dreams. And here is Nabokov. By the way, every episode was narrated in 3 languages: French, English and Russian.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

The dream continues. Islands pass across the arena, each symbolizing a Russian region. Some of them have birch trees, others northern wooden churches or Kamchatka volcanoes. Each island weighed 5-7 tons.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Next into the arena the Olympic mascots – A White Bear, Bunny and a Leopard. It seems they can skate almost as well as Plushenko. The dolls were assembled in Australia. To make them look like they are breathing, they contain special balloons that release air from time to time.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

The short movie on Russian history was made by director Djanik Faiziev. Curiously enough, everything started here - close to Sochi - from Jason and the Argonauts. Nearly a dozen of Russia’s most popular actors took part in the movie, the rest of the characters were drawn, not real.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

You can't speak about Russian history without mentioning the Troika. To be able to hold this huge installation (which took over 100 days to put together) the Fisht stadium’s roof was strengthened with special equipment capable of supporting dozens of tons.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

The Chudo-Yudo Fish-Whale was another huge insallation. It stopped in the middle of the arena as symbols showing Russia's most well known churches rose into the air. 

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Russian history continues in Lyubov's dream. We watch the black and white times of Peter I and step into the 19th century.   It's the ball of Natasha Rostova from Tolstoy's renowned 'War and Peace'.  Vladimir Vasilyev and Svetlana Zakharova receive rapturous applause. 

It's worth mentioning, that the organizers wanted to lower a huge chandelier with the orchestra’s director on it, but there was not enough time to turn that idea into reality. 

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Quick and wild comes the 20th century. To the sound of beautifully compiled music we see futuristic scenes made up of Malevich paintings and Soviet propaganda banners. By the end the impressive 'Soviet Union' construction breaks down. Here is where they should have spoken about World War 2, but the International Olympic Committee prohibits any representation of war. So they didn't. They just turned the sirens on and pointed searchlights into the ski. And the message got through. 

Konstantin Ernst wanted to stop the show for exactly a minute - to commemorate the fallen. Each spectator would have received a small tablet with a name showing 40,000 of the deceased’s names. However, the IOC did not allow that, fearing it could become a tradition for following Games.

Слайд-шоу: Olympic Games Opening Ceremony


It's getting lighter and here come the Pioneers, Cosmonauts, scientists and Teddy Youths. Look at those retro-cars! They are driven by their owners. Car collectors also went through casting. We are very close to the end of Lyubov's dream now.

Слайд-шоу: Olympic Games Opening Ceremony


We will skip the solemn speech by Thomas Bach and the short 'I pronounce the Games open' by Vladimir Putin (just looking at his face you could tell he was very emotional). We will go straight to the wonderful and joyful final part when Russia’s most celebrated sportsmen Vladislav Tretyak and Irina Rodnina lit the Olympic Flame (it took a whole minute to start it during rehearsal). Then come the fireworks! 

Слайд-шоу: Olympic Games Opening Ceremony


Now, the final hurrah: the dance of the jellyfish. I mean swans. That is done to the music from "Swan Lake" by Chaikovsky. 

Here they also planned it a little differently. They wanted beautiful doves flying all the way to the roof among 40 aerial gymnasts. But again – there was no time to prepare that. 

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

As we look back at that beautiful ceremony, it’s a chance to relivw emotions. It was a brilliant show - one of the best in the history of the Games. 

We congratulate everyone who had a hand in it! 

* You should have seen the face of Konstantin Ernst and his team as they watched the show from their control center. After it was over, they ran downstairs to where the artists were shouting - 'We did it! We did it!" Just like the medal winners!