Opening ceremony kicks off 2014 Olympics |

Opening ceremony kicks off 2014 Olympics

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined athlete Todd Lodwick carries the American flag and leads the United States Olympic Team into Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday night during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Lodwick, competing in his sixth Winter Olympics, led the team up a ramp that had dropped down from the middle of the floor, then ran ahead, waving the flag with one arm and to a packed, roaring stadium with the other. He then rejoined the front ranks of Team USA and walked with them step for step around the arena.

— Todd Lodwick waved the American flag.

He had a stuffed penguin in his pocket, at times sprinted and always smiled.

And when he said earlier this week in Russia that it felt like he already won a medal, after being selected to carry the U.S. flag in Friday's opening ceremony to kick off the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it seemed like he meant it.

Lodwick finished his flag-carrying duties with a sprint, a spin before taking in a remarkably well-done show.

The games officially started Friday with a celebration of Russia's history. And although it didn’t tell the whole story — which country really ever includes everything — Friday's opening ceremony opened with pageantry and pride an Olympics that has begun under mounting criticism.

It also provided several Steamboat athletes with firsts. In addition to Lodwick carrying the flag, as the only six-time U.S. Winter Olympian, multiple athletes walked for the first time.

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Arielle and Taylor Gold each made their trek through for the first time, as did Eliza Outtrim and Bryan Fletcher.

Strangely, in his fifth Olympics, it also marked the first time Billy Demong had walked.

"That was definitely one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done," Arielle Gold said. "I think the fact that I’m at the Olympics has finally set in."

The performance, which ran nearly four hours, was broken into 13 acts. They all highlighted Russia's history, from opening with the Russian alphabet — nations came out according to the alphabet — to focusing on historical figures who helped build Russia.

It continued highlighting Peter the Great, Natasha Rostova's first ball from "War and Peace" and, of course, a giant hammer and sickle.

"We thought we'd share the history of Russia in a new way and with a slightly different perspective," said Konstantin Ernst, the screenwriter and executive creative director. "It was indeed our way of saying to our country, ‘We love you, Russia.’"

It wasn't without hiccups, however. Five snowflakes hovered over the opening ceremony and were supposed to expand into the Olympic rings. The far right ring never expanded, leaving four connecting rings and a snowflake.

"One cannot think one flake not turning to a ring would take away from the show," Ernst said.

There was also Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, in his speech talking about "embracing diversity" and competing "without any form of discrimination."

Considering Russia and President Vladimir Putin's stance on gay and lesbian issues before the games, it could be construed as a shot at the games.

Bach, however, went on to say he sees the games being a success.

And with constant stories of sinks not working, rooms being a disaster and Sochi not being ready — Friday signified the actual beginning of the 2014 games.

So let them begin.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

Opening ceremony by the numbers

10,000: Russians who auditioned for the opening and closing ceremonies.

3,000: Russians chosen

9,223: Number of people required to stage the opening ceremony

33: Letters in the Russian alphabet

Masha and Olga: Most popular female names during auditions

Sasha and Pasha: Most popular male name