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Sochi Opening Ceremony LIVE UPDATES: Russia Celebrates Start Of 2014 Winter Olympics

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OLYMPIC RINGS
The Olympic rings are presented during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi. AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images) | ALBERTO PIZZOLI via Getty Images

After years of planning, billions of dollars in spending, much controversy and a growing list of @SochiProblems, the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Games has arrived. Vladimir Putin's Russia steps fully into the spotlight on Friday as the world turns its gaze toward Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.

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A record total of 88 nations are competing in the Sochi Games, with approximately 3,000 athletes vying for 98 gold medals. The Olympians will enter Fisht Olympic Stadium during the "Parade of Nations." As is traditional, the Olympians from Greece will begin the parade. Up next, Australia. The home team will conclude that portion of the ceremony. The United Stats will be the 67th team to enter the stadium.

Although entering the ceremony has always been an emotional experience for the athletes involved, Konstantin Ernst, the creative producer of the Sochi ceremony, told reporters that he has previously found it to be “one of the longest and more boring parts of the ceremony.” As reported by The Washington Post, Ernst has a plan to make this segment of the ceremony more "dynamic."

As is always the case for the opening ceremony, the details are largely under wraps. One element of the festivities drawing attention ahead of time was the performance of pseudo-lesbian Russian pop duo Tatu. Given the international outrage surrounding Russia's law banning gay "propaganda" to minors, the musical choice is conspicuous.

The identity of the person who will carry the Olympic torch into the stadium to light the cauldron remained a secret before the ceremony. Whomever handles the honor will conclude a historic journey for the Olympic flame. The torch relay covered 39,000 miles during the relay.

The event will not be televised live in the United States but will be aired on tape delay by NBC on Friday evening. NBC will make every event available for live viewing online but opted to keep the opening ceremony off its digital platform.

“We are looking to maximize the viewing experience for our audience,” Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group, told Variety, contending that context is an important part of the viewing experience.

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The Sochi Olympics are officially open. Scroll down to check out images, commentary and facts from the opening ceremony. For those in the United States, the ceremony will air on NBC on Friday evening.

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Tretiak and Rodnina have lit the Olympic flame.

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Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova just ran into the stadium with the torch and handed it to pole vaulter Elena isinbayeva.

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The Olympic flame is about to enter the stadium.

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Several rollerbladers dressed in white just rolled onto the stage in different formations. Very cool.

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The Olympic Anthem is now being performed as the Olympic flag is being raised.

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The Olympic flag is making its way into the stadium with four people on each side holding it up.

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