Friday night marks the opening ceremonies of the XXII Olympic Winter Games, and coverage will begin with a clip narrated by Emmy-winning actor Peter Dinklage. Dinklage, 44, plays Tyrion Lannister on the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, where they also know something about winter.
“It almost seems like an oversight, that this nation, that bears so much of winter’s burden, has never before hosted the Winter Games,” Dinklage says. Sounds good. “More than ever before, snow has become the realm of the young,” he adds. What?
4:38 PM: Bob Costas runs through laundry list of stories surrounding the Games: terrorism threats, human rights issues, staggering sums spent, whether Sochi should have been granted the Games in the first place. Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer report it is freezing in Fisht Stadium, which is the only stadium ever built only for Olympics ceremony – opening and closing. Those are only events scheduled to be staged in the venue.
4:42 PM: First NBC new comedy promo.
4:45 PM: Costas interviews President Obama. It went something like this:
Costas: Why aren’t you, or VPOTUS or FLOTUS going to Games?
Obama: I haven’t gone to an Olympics since I became president event. Vancouver. Besides, nobody wants to see us — they want to see the athletes.
Costas: You’re sending openly gay athletes as part of your delegation.
Obama: You betcha!
5:00 PM: We get our first look at the Team USA Uniforms — including the Homage to Grandma’s Crocheted Afghan cardigans.
REAL TIME ALERT: When the opening ceremonies were actually happening in Sochi, news outlets in the U.S. were reporting from Sochi about a plane that was grounded in Istanbul with a hijacker on board who’d tried to get the plane sent to Sochi. NBC News’s Richard Engel reported that a man claiming to have a bomb tried to hijack a Turkey-bound Pegasus Airlines flight from the Ukraine, and divert it to Sochi, where the Olympic Opening Ceremony had just started. According to Engel, pilots turned off their inflight monitors and flew to Istanbul, where the plane landed safely and was surrounded by security. According to Engel, there were 110 passengers on board. The Turkish pilots tripped ‘hijacking alert’ as entering Turkey, signaled two F16 escorts. The would-be hijacker was detained and is in custody, according to Turkish officials. No word yet if he had a bomb.
5:18 PM: Opening ceremonies begins with trippy sequence in which little girl named Lubov (Love) recites alphabet used that’s also a history lesson in re great moments and names in Russian history. Including Tchaikovsky. Who was gay. The “Television” reference is to Boris Rosing, a Russian scientist and inventor who worked in research in the field of television — though he didn’t actually nail it — until Stalin exiled him in 1931.
5:24 PM: Giant Snowflake Sequence, of which you’ve no doubt already heard, begins. They’re supposed to morph into the five Olympic rings, but, the upper right one famously gets stuck. This keeps them from erupting into a major pyrotechnic display. Olympics opening ceremonies have too many pyrotechnics these days. Thank you, Upper Right Snowflake. “It looks like we have a little bit of a glitch here — this is what happens when you’re this ambitious in a show like this,” says Matt Lauer — no doubt remembering a similar snafu at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics when NHL superstars Wayne Gretzky and other athletes attempted to light the four pillars of the Olympic cauldron, only just three of them were working. “It’s too bad,” Lauer said.
5:30 PM: Russian president Vladimir Putin is introduced, standing next to IOC president Thomas Bach. The Russian anthem song is sung by a choir from the Sretensky Monastery Choir. Dressed as bankers.
5:36 PM: March of the Teams begins. Greece team is out first — and they’ve already won our prize for Most Political Uniform, for their rainbow gloves. They’re followed by Australia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Andorra, Argentina, and Armenia.
“A lot of the athletes know they’re not going to win a medal,” Downer Lauer notes as the parade of happy, excited faces parades by and waves at the crowd.
5:46 PM: Bermuda’s one athlete is in Bermuda shorts. “I’m sure he has goose bumps,” says Meredith Vieira, who keeps reminding us how cold are the conditions in the arena.
5:53 PM: Germany wins the prize for Loudest Uniform. Meredith assures us their wildly colorful outfits ares not a statement about Russia’s anti-gay laws.
6:03 PM: Canada wins the prize for Most Stylish Uniform — extra pints for toggles.
6:05 PM: The Kyrgyszstan team is dressed in a uniform with a hat that looks like it’s made of milk cartons. Prize winner for Best Headgear. They’re closely followed by the team from China, which is Matt’s cue to explain that the size and scale of this Opening Ceremonies is much grander than usual for Winter Games, because Putin took note of the Beijing Games Opening Ceremonies and decided to match it.
6:25 PM: U.S. team — winner of the Most Awful Uniform, hands down, designed by Ralph Lauren.
6:40 PM: French team, in parkas designed to look like grey blazers, are runners up for Most Stylish Uniform.
6:46 PM: Russian team, 232 strong, enters the hall, unencumbered by silly Ralph Lauren outfits.
6:51 PM: Russian history: 1,000 years in three minutes. It’s followed by performers re-enacting the construction of Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral. The onion domes of the cathedral morph into multi-coloured teapots, as circus like performers dance around. Matt describes it as a sort of Medieval Coney Island. NBC cuts away for the Parade of Team USA Selfies, and a commercial for chick flick Winter’s Tale, opening on Valentine’s Day. Returning from that ad break, the ceremony is now starring a 200ft-long lit-up Troika — an 18th century carriage pulled by three horses. A ballet performance dramatizing War and Peace follows. That era of Russian histor ” is about to be swept away by two important events: the Russian Revolution — and this break!” says Matt.
7:23 PM: Soviet era depiction discussed gingerly by NBC talent. “Again, this dream of building a better life,” Meredith explains, as another Opening Ceremonies wraps up advertisement for host country.
7:35 PM: Thomas Bach, IOC president, takes the microphone to discuss this “new age in Olympic history: I say to the political leaders of the world, thank you for supporting your athletes. They are best ambassadors of your countries. Please respect their Olympic message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace, Have the courage to address your disagreements in political dialogue and not on the backs of these athletes. We all wish you joy in your Olympic efforts and a wonderful Olympic experience.”
7:49 PM: Olympic flag is raised as diva belts it out. You think we’re nearly done? Think again — first, we have to recap the last two billion years starting with the first molecules. “Now the software designers are just showing off a little bit,” Lauer explained of the power-grid display.
8:11 PM: Is is spring yet? Nope — still the Winter Games Opening Ceremonies. The Olympic Flame is run past the cast members who just brought us through 1,000 in Russian history , the cauldron is lit. The Olympic snowflakes-turned-rings have been fixed, and they’re back!