Pete Evans - Friday Feb. 7, 2014 09:31 ET

Vladislav Tretiak lights Olympic cauldron at Sochi opening ceremony

Winter Olympic Games officially opened

Olympic flame lit
Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak were selected to ignite the cauldron. (Darron Cummings/Associated)

The Olympic cauldron has been lit in Sochi, Russia, and the 22nd Winter Olympics are officially opened.

(Watch the complete video above, starting at 4:50.)

The opening ceremony ended with a sextet of Russian sports heroes carrying the Olympic flame through the stadium to light the cauldron. The cauldron itself was lit by the final two — iconic Russian hockey goalie Vladislav Tretiak and former champion figure skater Irina Rodnina.

They joined arms and dipped the torch to ignite a chain reaction of fire, shooting up to the elevated cauldron.

It was the culmination of a performance that started three hours earlier.

Athlete procession

Near the start, athletes from 88 nations filed into the stadium starting at 8:14 local time — or 20:14 as it is in the 24-hour clock, to signify the year. Greece, as is the historical custom, entered the stadium first, because of its status as the birthplace of the modern games.

Athletes entered the stadium based on their country's name in the Russian alphabet, so Canada didn't enter the stadium until about 8:52 p.m. Sochi time.

Women's hockey icon Hayley Wickenheiser was waving Canada's flag when that happened.

"To represent the best of Canada is such an honour, it's chilling. There is so much excitement," Wickenheiser said. "I remember my first Olympics, I've been to eight (including two as a spectator) and this never grows old."

Wickenheiser was followed by 220 of her Canadian teammates.

Not surprisingly, the largest cheer of the night was reserved for when Russia's athletes entered the stadium at the very end. Alexander Zubkov, a 39-year-old bobsledder heading into his fifth Olympics, was the Russian flag-bearer.

Another highlight was the entry of an enthusiastic three-person Venezuelan team, led by flag-bearer and alpine skier Antonio Pardo dancing and jumping along to the electronic music.

The Jamaican contingent — the country's four-man bobsled team — also got a warm welcome.

All in all, there are 12 new sports and seven new nations competing in these Winter Games compared to those in four years ago in Vancouver.

Ceremony details

The opening ceremony was planned to be an eye-opening romp through Russia's cultural and sporting history.

But it started with a slight hiccup as five large snowflakes meant to link up and create the Olympic rings appeared to malfunction. The fifth didn't turn into a ring and remained a snowflake.

The rings were supposed to erupt in pyrotechnics to get the party started. Instead, they were eventually darkened and moved out of the arena, just as Russian President Vladimir Putin was introduced.

For the most part, the show stuck to the vision of Russia that Putin is eager to promote: a country with a rich and complex history emerging confidently from two rocky decades and now capable of putting on a major international event.

At various times, homage was paid to nation-building czar Peter the Great, the Bolshevik revolution and Russia's space program, along with performances by the Bolshoi ballet and other Russian icons.

The ceremony's director, Konstantin Ernst, had promised "relatively simple metaphors" — and no obscure references, like the nurses in the London Games' opening ceremony representing the National Health Service, which he called one of the most "incomprehensible" moments in Olympic history.

"We made a mental journey back into the history of Russia, bearing in mind that we would be working for billions of viewers across the globe and we want them to experience this love of Russia," Ernst said.

Most of the show leaned on Russia's rich classical music traditions, with piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev performing and opera soprano Anna Netrebko singing the Olympic anthem.

1980 Games referenced

Ernst said both the opening and closing ceremonies would make reference to the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, which some view as the first time the opening ceremony became such a big deal.

The show was focused on TV audiences, with projections onto the stadium floor, which fans in the stands couldn't fully appreciate.

Before the ceremony formally started, Russian pop duo Tatu entertained attendees by singing their song Not Gonna Get Us and the Red Army Choir MVD warmed up the crowd by singing Daft Punk's Grammy-winning Get Lucky.

(With files from The Associated Press)

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