SOCHI, Russia – Matching the pop splendor, and cheeky humor, of London's opening ceremony is an impossible feat, Sochi show producer Konstantin Ernst acknowledged Friday.
"Unfortunately like London we can't boast a plethora of well-known pop performers," he said. So instead of One Direction and the Spice Girls, Friday's opening ceremony will be heavy on Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy. Russia's world-class performing arts—particularly its classical music and ballet – will the focus, so get ready to brush up on your Bolshoi. Opera diva Anna Netrebko will sing the Olympic anthem.
The opening ceremony will start at 11 a.m. ET, but NBC won't air the spectacle until 7:30 p.m. Nordic combined athlete Todd Lodwick, competing in his sixth Olympics, will be the U.S.'s flagbearer. The presidential delegation, featuring openly gay athletes Brian Botiano and Caitlin Cahow, will be there as well, a public and political response to the country's anti-gay stance. Billie Jean King pulled out of the delegation due to the failing health of her mother.
The festivities will be held at Fisht Olympic Stadium, a 40,000-seat facility which will ultimately be used for World Cup soccer in 2018 and as a training center. Fisht is the name of a local mountain.
Given the international furor over the anti-gay laws, it's notable that tATu, described as a "faux-lesbian Russian pop duo," by Russian news agency RIA Novosti will perform in the show's pre-ceremony. Quotes from their songs will be included in a music mash-up during the show, Ernst said.
Ernst said the duo was chosen because it has one of the only pop songs that international viewers might recognize. The choice was relevant to athletes given their hit song is Not Gonna Get Us, he said.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the duo achieved scandalous fame in the mid-2000s, "cashing in heavily on themes of teenage sex and lesbian love (even the Russian version of the duo's name implies sex between two women). Both members of the duo are, however, known to be heterosexual."
taTu performed their hit at the MTV Movie Awards in 2003, accompanied by hundreds of women dressed in uniforms. The women then stripped down to tanks and underwear and paired off for closing-performance kisses.
The Parade of Nations should be compelling with athletes stepping up to the stage along a ramp in the middle of Fisht Olympic Stadium. An image of the earth will be projected on the stage, rotating on an athlete's country when they appear.
As usual, a country's history will be portrayed throughout the ceremony. The Russian Revolution will be featured in an "avant garde style," Ernst said.
Russian president Vladimir Putin will be there of course, to declare the Games open. But don't expect him to jump out of a helicopter with James Bond, as Queen Elizabeth seemingly did in London's opener.
Will Mr. Putin propel from a plane, Ernst was asked. (Or even better, shirtless and bareback on a horse?) "Well you shouldn't be hoping too much for that," he said.