The Sochi Winter Games have officially begun.
The Opening Ceremony was held Friday, a lavish celebration of Russian history and an extravagant welcome to athletes from around the world. But to keep the competition schedule on track, several events have already begun. Organizers are also still working out kinks, both on playing surfaces and in the Olympic Village.
Here are some of the day’s key developments.
Bode tests Rosa Khutor
A day after turning in the fastest time on the first set of men’s downhill training runs, American Bode Miller went experimental on Friday, taking an unconventional approach on the Rosa Khutor course. Testing a new line of attack on his second training run, Miller lost speed and came in sixth. It’s not necessarily a sign that the defending gold medalist, skiing in his fifth Olympics, is losing his edge. He is probably just plotting his next move.
On the women’s side, the U.S. team looked good on Friday, with Julia Mancuso, Stacey Cook and Jacqueline Wiles all finishing in the top 12 on day two training.
The downhill racers have another day of training runs before competition begins Sunday.
A bit of drama on the Nordic tracks
A couple days before the start of biathlon competition, organizers discovered that the track at Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center was too short. So it was lengthened by 130 feet. The discovery surprised coaches and athletes, but it isn’t expected to create any problems once racing begins there on Sunday.
Just as one problem at the center was being corrected, another emerged. Stray dogs have apparently been encroaching on the cross-country track. A Russian website and a Swedish journalist both reported seeing a stay dog barking at skiers and walking along the track, according to the Associated Press. No athletes said they were worried — some have to deal with bigger beasts than dogs while training back home. But the report raises new questions about Olympic officials’ ability to control the population of stray dogs in Sochi.
The missing ring
No Opening Ceremony is perfect. Torch lightings alone are prone to malfunctions (see Vancouver, Sydney and Seoul). Sochi’s big glitch did not involve fire, but lights.
During the start of the ceremony at Fisht Stadium, five huge, glowing snowflakes began to morph into Olympic rings. But one snowflake didn’t make the transformation.
It was the only major hiccup of the ceremony, if you don’t count the American teams’ official uniforms, which included gaudy Ralph Lauren-designed sweaters that looked like the Olympic versions of a grandma-knitted Christmas gift.
Friday’s ceremony ended with Russian hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak and gymnast Irina Rodnina lighting the Olympic flame.
Yogurt becomes scarce
U.S. athletes who were expecting to be able to eat Greek yogurt will have to alter their plans, and some are not happy.
About 5,000 individual cups of American-made Chobani yogurt have been held at port in a customs dispute with Russia.
U.S. freestyle skier Aaron Blunk told the Associated Press that the absence of yogurt could throw off athletes’ routines. “And having the yogurt there, that helps you, gives you protein, gives you nutrition," he said.
Some of his teammates, however, said it wasn’t that big of a deal. “We’ll be able to adapt,” Lyman Currier said.
We shall see.
Shaun White: a sure bet?
You probably don’t want to bet against American snowboarder Shaun White, reigning halfpipe gold medalist. But you also probably don’t want to bother betting on him, either.
As first reported by the AP, White is considered so far ahead of his competition at Sochi that the Ladbrokes betting house listed him as a 1-2 favorite.
The closest competition, according to Ladbrokes, is Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland and American Danny Davis.