Olympic Games to open in Sochi
The opening ceremony of the XXII Winter Olympic Games is due to begin at Fisht Stadium in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi at 20:14 p.m. Moscow time on Friday.
All the detailed of the upcoming performance have been kept in the most strict secret by the organizers, while rumors concerning different aspects of the ceremony that have occasionally appeared in the media have always been denied at different levels, including by the Russian president.
The Russian leader's press secretary Dmitry Peskov, who attended a rehearsal one day before the Olympics opening ceremony, told reporters that he was overwhelmed by what he saw, but asked the journalists not to ask him to disclose any details of what he described as a "most beautiful ceremony."
The heads of state and government from about 50 countries are expected to attend the ceremony. Up to 60 foreign leaders may visit Sochi during the Olympic Games.
On Friday noon, Russian President Vladimir Putin will give an official reception for the Olympic Games' high-ranking guests at Sochi's Rus hotel.
In addition to that, Putin plans to hold bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of Turkey and the Netherlands on Saturday. The Russian president may also speak to some of his foreign counterparts, for example Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych, outside of official meetings.
Up to 40,000 people will gather at Sochi's Fisht Stadium to watch the opening ceremony, which will be watched live by more than three billion people worldwide.
Two-time Olympic bobsled medalist Alexander Zubkov will carry Russia's flag at the opening ceremony. The Sochi Games will be the fourth ones for him.
All in all, Russia's national team for the Sochi Olympics, which will officially close on February 23, includes 225 athletes.
Ninety-eight sets of medals will be handed out to athletes at the Sochi Games, which is 12 sets more than at the Vancouver Olympics, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) agreed to allow a dozen new events to make their debut at the Sochi Olympics. They include team figure skating, women's ski jumping, luge relay, the ski halfpipe (men's and women's), ski slopestyle (men's and women's), biathlon mixed relay, snowboard slopestyle (men's and women's), and snowboard parallel slalom (men's and women's).
The competitions will be held at 11 Olympic sites of Sochi's mountain and coastal clusters. The first set of medals will be handed out on February 8.
It is the first Olympic Games in Russian territory since the Moscow 1980 Summer Games.