The Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony took place Friday, Feb. 7, with an elaborate show that took viewers through Russian history and included performances by Russian dancers and the gay-friendly band, t.a.T.u.

The ceremony took place in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, which seats about 40,000 people.

The pre-show kicked off the celebrations with musical performances by the Russian military choir, who sang a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and the gay-friendly girl group, t.a.T.u. The duo had a few worldwide hits in the early 2000s. The Russian pop singers performed two of their hits during the preshow, including “Not Gonna Get Us,” which is regarded by many as a gay anthem. While Russia does not have many pop stars known the world over, it is interesting that the country currently making headlines for anti-gay policies invited t.a.T.u. to perform at the Olympics this year.

Five floating snowflakes of light also traveled through the sky onstage and came together, suddenly shifting to make the Olympic rings, but the snowflake on the top right failed to open into a circle leading many on Twitter to declare it an error – or, as Twitter users put it, an #Olympicfail.

But the true start of the opening ceremony was the parade of the athletes. Each country came out and waved to the crowd in their nation’s chosen Olympic uniform as bright lights flashed. The parade went off without a hitch, though one of Austria’s athletes appeared to trip in the middle of the walkway.

Once the athletes were seated, the ceremony celebration continued with a sweet, colorful inflatable installation of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the presentation of the Sochi Olympic mascots, Bear, Hare and Leopard.

The history of Russia unfolded during the ceremony, intertwined with famous Russian works of art, such as a dance performance inspired by Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The dance featured Russian ballet dancers, Svetlana Zakharova, Vladimir Vasilliev, Danila Korusntsev, Alexander Petukov and Ivan Vasilliev.

Russian Opera singer Anna Netrebko sang the Olympic anthem during the raising of the Olympic flag before Vladimir Putin officially declared the Olympic Games open. But it was President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach who gave the night’s most memorable speech. While opening the games, Bach implored the athletes and the countries they represent to put political differences aside and embrace the friendly athletic competition as a way of “praising human diversity in great unity.”

“To the athletes, you have come here with your Olympic dream. You are welcome, no matter where you come from or your background. Yes, it’s possible even as competitors to live together and to live in harmony with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible even as competitors to listen, to understand and to be an example of a peaceful society, to building bridges and bring people together. The Olympic Games are never about erecting walls or to keep people above. Olympic Games are a sports festival in praising human diversity in great unity. Therefore, I say to political leaders of the world, thank you for supporting your athletes, they are the best ambassador of your country. Have the courage to embrace your disagreements in a peaceful and not political way and not on the back of these athletes,” said Bach.

Bach is clearly trying to distance the games from any negative association with Russia’s recent anti-gay policies. The laws banning ‘gay propaganda’ has led to widespread outrage and many have spoken out against the Russian president, and some even called for Olympic boycotts.

Finally, Maria Sharapova, Russian tennis star, came in with the Olympic torch and helped light the official Olympic flame.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony will air at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Friday, Feb. 7.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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