The Olympics opening ceremony starts at precisely 11:14am Eastern time today—that's 20:14 in Sochi, meant to "symbolize the year of the first-ever Russian Winter Games," the official press release explains. (NBC won't air the ceremony until 7:30pm Eastern, Time notes.) What to expect? RIA Novosti reports that the multimillion-dollar spectacle is top secret, with participants having been sworn to silence, but we already know a good deal:
- The Olympic anthem will be sung in Russian by opera singer Anna Netrebko. Russian band tATu will also perform, the Telegraph reports. (Amusingly, the ceremony producer explains that tATu is "one of the few popular Russian bands that are also known in other countries.")
- Vladimir Putin will be there, of course, to declare the games open. But he won't be parachuting into the ceremony, the producer jokes.
- As for the final torchbearer and any other special guests, though, those are still secret. (Putin's rumored girlfriend, a past Olympics champ, is whispered to be the one lighting the flame.)
- The two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza will celebrate Russia's history, and will include more than 40 heads of state and delegations; more than 3,000 school-age participants; professional dance, acrobatic, and circus performers; and more than 6,000 costumes.
- "It shows all of Russian history, apart from the revolution," says an Olympic Park worker who saw a rehearsal. "There is no Lenin or Stalin."
- Expect other Russian traditions, like Matryoshka nesting dolls and troika (a carriage driven by three horses), to somehow make an appearance, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
- There will be a "special flooring" showing a projected image of the Earth that rotates, and athletes will march up "from the heart of their country's territory," the producer says. "They will arrive at the stadium just like the ancient heroes of Greece."
- The countries are announced in alphabetical order, but this year, they'll be in alphabetical order according to their Russian spelling. Two exceptions: Greece is always announced first, and the host nation last.
- Needless to say, security at Olympic Park got even tighter today, USA Today reports. No one is allowed in without tickets and credentials, and the number of police and military officers roaming about is rising. And, following a warning about toothpaste explosives, the TSA is banning carry-on liquids on all US-to-Russia flights.
(Read more 2014 Sochi Olympics