Olympic Daily News - Friday, February 7th

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games began with a glitch and ended with two Russian sports legends lighting the Olympic cauldron.

Friday's spectacle played out as news surfaced that a plane had landed safely at a Turkish airport after a passenger on board allegedly issued a bomb threat and tried to have the aircraft redirected to Sochi.

That stoked already high fears that Vladimir Putin's Olympics are a target of terrorists, but the ceremony unfolded safely.

It was punctuated by hockey great Vladislav Tretiak and three-time Olympic gold medalist figure skater Irina Rodnina lighting the sweeping, spire-like Olympic cauldron outside of Fisht Olympic Stadium on the coast of the Black Sea.

Tretiak and Rodnina jogged out of the stadium and dipped the torch together, setting off a series of bursting flames that climbed to ignite the cauldron.

"Absolutely magical," U.S. figure skater Jason Brown tweeted.

Competition began Thursday, of course, but the most expensive Olympics in history didn't kick off in earnest until the lavish ceremony highlighting everything from Russian terrain to the arts, including ballet.

It opened with a performance celebrating Russia's geographic scope as seen through the eyes of a girl with floating islands carrying a village, trees, mountains and ice.

It hit an early snafu when one of five large snowflakes suspended over the floor failed to open into a ring, leaving the Olympics logo with four rings beside a snowflake floating on one side like an asterisk.

The gaffe echoed Vancouver's opening ceremony four years ago, where one of the four legs of the cauldron didn't rise into place.

It didn't help the perception that Sochi's games are still under construction, a view bolstered by tales of hotels with falling lights and broken doors and water that is unsafe to drink.

"There is no greater metaphor for the Sochi Games than something being broken and missing," Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan tweeted during the ceremony.

On a more serious note, Turkey was forced to scramble an F-16 fighter jet to force a plane to land after pilots sent a signal that it was being hijacked, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A Turkish transportation official described the alleged attempted hijacker as a "citizen of Ukraine," the paper reported. The flight from Kharkov, Ukraine, landed at its intended destination at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport.

Putin, the Russian president who has pledged that the Olympics will be safe, sat next to International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who is presiding over his first games.

Next to Bach was United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose speech Thursday at an IOC session voiced support for LGBT rights around the world.

The Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. -- known for their faux-lesbian performances -- performed during the pre-ceremony, an oddity considering the country's recently passed laws aimed at keeping gay "propaganda" away from children.

After praising Russian organizers for their "determination and commitment to the Olympics" and thanking workers, Bach seemed to take a shot at Russia's anti-gay laws.

He spoke about "building bridges to bring people together" and not "erecting walls to keep people apart" and said the games were about embracing diversity.

Bach then introduced Putin, who stood at a microphone to declare the games open.

The Olympic flag bearers included another hockey great, Viacheslav Fetisov, and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova.

Sochi's Olympic flame traveled farther than any other, even going into space. Tennis player Maria Sharapova carried it into the stadium, where it was passed off several times before being handed over to Tretiak.

Earlier, nations entered the stadium in alphabetical order as usual except for Greece, which traditionally goes first as the home of the Olympics; and the Russians, who went last per custom as the hosts.

Nordic combined athlete Todd Lodwick, competing in his sixth Olympics, carried the U.S. flag.

The American team, the largest in the history of the Winter Olympics, wore colorful cardigans designed by Ralph Lauren -- a patchwork of red, white and blue -- on top of white fleece pants and black leather boots with red laces.

The outfits have drawn snickers -- particularly the cardigans, which have been likened to bad Christmas sweaters or to something someone's grandmother might knit. But they appeared to have their supporters.

"Red, white and blue! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?!?" tweeted U.S. luger Jayson Terdiman along with a picture of American athletes entering the stadium in their outfits.

Women's hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser carried Canada's flag, leading the team wearing red coats and black pants.

The Sochi mascots -- a polar bear on ice skates, a rabbit on skis, a leopard on a snowboard -- entered the stadium as giant figures and moved to the center of the floor.

The region's history played out in what has become an opening ceremony trope. The onion domes of Moscow's Saint Basil's Cathedral bounced along the floor and spectators were treated to a ballet of the Tolstoy novel "War and Peace."

The Russian Revolution was represented in the segment, the hammer and sickle made an appearance and space exploration was celebrated.

After Putin's address, there was a performance set to Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake."

Sochi Organizing Committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said Sochi is "unique as all of Russia is unique" and described the host city as a place where Europe and Asia meet.

Many world leaders stayed away, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who sent a delegation that included openly gay athletes.

The ceremony began at 8:14 p.m. local time but the U.S. audience had to wait until NBC's primetime broadcast to see it. The network did not stream it live online.


Istanbul, Turkey (SportsNetwork.com) - A plane landed safely at an airport in Turkey on Friday after a passenger on board allegedly issued a bomb threat and tried to have the aircraft redirected to Sochi, Russia, according to reports.

News of the attempted hijacking came during the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Turkey scrambled an F-16 fighter jet to force the plane to land after pilots sent a signal that it was being hijacked.

A Turkish transportation official described the alleged attempted hijacker as a "citizen of Ukraine," according to the paper.

The flight originating from Kharkov, Ukraine, landed at its intended destination at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport, the paper reported.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American moguls skier Heidi Kloser pulled out of the Sochi Olympics on Friday after injuring her right leg in a crash.

Kloser, considered a medal contender, was hurt during a training run Thursday when she crashed on the top jump.

The injuries kept her from making qualification runs but she still could have tried to qualify for the finals Saturday.

Reigning Olympic champion Hannah Kearney of the U.S. posted the top score in qualifying on Thursday.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Reigning Olympic ice dance silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White were chosen Friday to represent the United States when the figure skating team competition resumes Saturday.

Davis and White, who have won a record six straight titles at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, will compete in the short dance. Ashley Wagner will skate for the U.S. in the women's short program.

Competition in the team event, which is new to the Olympics, began Thursday in Sochi.

The U.S. is in a three-way tie for fifth place with 10 points. American champion Jeremy Abbott placed seventh on Thursday for four points and the pairs tandem of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir placed fifth to earn six points.

Russia leads the competition with 19 points and Canada is second with 17 after world men's champion Patrick Chan finished third and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford placed second on Thursday.

After the field is cut to five countries following the short dance and women's short program, the pairs free skate will follow on Saturday.

Free skates for the men, women and ice dancing are scheduled for Sunday, when the medals will be awarded.


Arlington, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson will replace Vancouver star Henrik Sedin on the roster for Sweden at the Sochi Olympics.

The announcement was made Friday, one day after Sedin withdrew from the tournament because of a lingering rib injury that caused an end to his streak of 679 consecutive games played.

Johansson, 23, joins Capitals teammate Nicklas Backstrom on the Swedish team.

A former captain for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, Johansson has seven goals and 29 assists in 58 games this season.


(SportsNetwork.com) - The Finnish hockey team lost two key forwards as it was announced Friday that both Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu and Tampa Bay's Valtteri Filppula both withdrew from the Sochi Olympics due to injury.

Koivu has been sidelined since suffering a fractured ankle on Jan. 4 against the Washington Capitals.

Filppula is expected to be sidelined three weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his right ankle. He was hurt during the Lightning's 4-1 loss Thursday to Toronto.