Sochi 2014Friday, February 7, 2014
Winter Games begin; opening ceremony today
Russia takes lead in team figure skating
The Winter Olympics in Sochi began yesterday with taking the early lead in team figure skating, while the opening ceremony will be today with the presence of President Vladimir Putin.
SOCHI, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics today determined to prove his doubters wrong after militant attacks, a row over gay rights and ballooning costs overshadowed preparations.
Putin has staked his reputation on hosting a safe and successful Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where a three-hour spectacle before 40,000 spectators at the new Fisht Stadium will signal the start of the full sporting programme.
Some 37,000 security personnel are on high alert over threats by Islamist militant groups based in the nearby north Caucasus region to attack the February 7-23 Games.
Separatist guerrillas seeking an independent Islamic state in Chechnya and neighbouring regions of southern Russia have vowed to disrupt the Olympics, which they say are taking place on land seized from Caucasus tribes in the 19th century.
Despite a “ring of steel” around venues, Russian forces fear a woman suspected of planning a suicide bombing may have slipped through.
Security analysts believe that an attack is in fact more likely to occur elsewhere in Russia to humiliate Putin, who launched a war to crush a Chechen rebellion in 1999.
Twin suicide bombings killed at least 34 people in December in Volgograd, 700km northeast of Sochi.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told reporters in Sochi that Russian security services were working with colleagues from Europe and North America to minimize the risk of attack.
Yesterday, Russia’s world champion pairs figure skaters didn’t have to look far for inspiration. They got it from the local hero.
Three-time medallist Evgeni Plushenko grabbed the spotlight in the men’s portion of the new event of team figure skating at the Sochi Olympics. Then it was Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov stealing the show in their short programme. With their countrymen waving Russian flags throughout the Iceberg, Volosozhar and Trankov capped a special evening for the host nation on the eve of the opening ceremony. The Russians romped to win by more than 10 points after Plushenko finished second to Japan’s rising star, Yuzuru Hanyu.
Russia’s 19 points — 10 for first, nine for second — pushed it ahead of Canada, which earned 17, and China with 15, with two more nights of team vs. team competition to come.
Hannah Kearney’s quest for an Olympic repeat started flawlessly as she easily topped qualifying in the ladies’ moquls freestyle skiing. The 27-year-old from New Hampshire posted a score of 23.05 to move into tomorrow’s finals and move one step closer to bookending the gold she won in Vancouver four years ago.