The large-scale pageantry of the Winter Olympics will be on display Friday, when the Opening Ceremony is held at Sochi, Russia. The ceremony at Fisht Stadium will be seen by 3 billion people worldwide, according to organizers.
The Opening Ceremony is virtually the only Olympic event that won't be streamed online in the U.S., a decision NBC made to bolster its primetime broadcast tonight. While we track Friday's event here, NPR's pop-culture blogger Linda Holmes will give us her take on the ceremonies later tonight over at Monkey See.
We're following the event and will post updates and images from the ceremony here.
Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Putin, Dignitaries Introduced; Russia's Anthem
The big "reveal" of the Olympic rings has failed, at least in part. But the show moves on. Russian President Vladimir Putin is introduced, along with International Olympics Committee chief Thomas Bach.
The Russian national anthem is sung by a large choir. A montage of the Olympic flame traveling to Sochi is played. This is a teaser — the flame won't arrive til later.
Update at 11:25 a.m. ET: The Rings Appear — Four of Them, At Least
Ice islands are floating around, and masses of people dressed in traditional winter outfits are walking across the ice and singing. Above them, the little girl sings.
The ice floor is covered by rolling puffs of artificial smoke — a very effective look. Snow, or something like it, is now falling in the arena.
Large snowflakes that had been suspended above them are morphing and resolving themselves into the five intertwined Olympic rings. But there's a misfire — one of the rings has not opened from its crystalline state into a smooth ring.
Update at 11:20 a.m. ET: Fly a Kite
A little girl in a white dress is standing alone on the ice, in the character of "Love"; she flies a kite. It then takes her into the air above the stadium's floor. The crowd oohs and aahs. She rises into a floating village landscape, as rock islands drift around and ethereal choral music plays.
Update at 11:15 a.m. ET: The Olympics Are Open
The first video montage is playing in the stadium, where 40,000 people are watching scenes of Russian culture and history matched with letters of the alphabet. This promises a steady pace, we think.
Our original post continues:
While security concerns have led to tens of thousands of police and military being positioned around the venues, and reporters have complained about conditions in Sochi, the epic spectacle that is the opening ceremony could wash away many of those worries. And it will also bring the athletes closer to competing in events they've been training for since the 2010 Vancouver Games.
As the games begin, many observers believe three countries will vie for the most medals in Sochi: the United States, Norway, and Germany. But Canada also has an imposing team, and host Russia is intent on making its mark.
Here's some more background on these Winter Games:
Sochi By The Numbers