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Opening Ceremony Flagbearers

OK, the flagbearers have been officially announced. There are 87 of them announced, as India, which will compete in these Games as Independent Olympic Athletes (IOA), will march under the Olympic Flag, so it seems they did not want to announce who will carry that flag.

No major surprises. As always, the majority of the flagbearers are former Olympic athletes – 52 of the 87 have competed at the Olympics previously. The 35 new Olympians to carry the flags are often from small countries, with only 1-2 competitors,  or nations competing in the Winter Olympics for the first time, such as Dominica, or Timor-Leste.

Five athletes will be carrying their nation’s flag for the 3rd time at an Opening Ceremony – Albanian Erjan Tola, and Nepalese Dachhiri Sherpa both carried their flags in 2006 and 2010. Three athletes will be doing this for a third time, but not consecutively –Cristian Simari Birkner carried the Argentine flag in 2002 and 2010, the Mexican Prince Hubertus Von Hohenlohe carried his flag in 1994 and 2010, while Eva Tofalvi carried the Romanian flag in 2002 and 2010.

Several athletes will carry their national flag for a second time – Bermuda’s Tucker Murphy, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Žana Novaković, the Cayman Islands’ Dow Travers, Kyrgyzstan’s Dmitry Trelevski, and Moldavian Victor Pînzaru.

There are a few interesting notes about flagbearers. Hanna Mariën will carry the Belgian flag. She has competed at the Olympics before, but only at the Summer Olympics, winning a silver medal in the 4×100 relay at Beijing in 2008. Ivica Kostelić will carry the Croatian flag for the first time, but his sister, Janica, carried it three times at the Winter Olympics – 1998, 2002, 2006. And Todd Lodwick will carry the USA flag before competing in his 6th Winter Olympics. Only three times has an Opening Ceremony flagbearer done so before competing in his 6th Winter Olympics – Jochen Behle of Germany in 1998, Mike Dixon of Great Britain in 2002, and Finland’s Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi-Hämäläinen in 1994.

If you want to carry your nation’s flag, it’s a good idea to be an Alpine skiier, as fully 33 of the flagbearers will compete in that sport. Second on the sporting list is cross-country skiing with 15. Ski jumping brings up the rear with only multiple Olympic medalist Simon Ammann of Switzerland carrying a flag from that sport.

And here is the complete list of flagbearers. The order in the far right column denotes the order in which they will march into the stadium. This is done as follows: Greece is always first, the host nation is always last (Russia), and the others come in alphabetically, in the alphabet of the host nation, in this case, Cyrillic Russian.



Albania,Erjon Tola,ASK,M,5

Andorra,Mireia Gutierrez,ASK,F,6

Argentina,Cristian Simari Birkner,ASK,M,7

Armenia,Sergey Mikayelyan,CCS,M,8

Australia,Alex Pullin,SNB,M,2

Austria,Mario Stecher,NCO,M,3

Azerbaijan,Patrick Barchner,ASK,M,4

Belarus,Alexei Grishin,FRS,M,10

Belgium,Hanna Emilie Marien,BOB,F,11

Bermuda,Tucker Murphy,CCS,M,12

Bosnia & Herzegovina,Zana Novakovich,ASK,F,14

Brazil,Jaqueline Mourao,BIA/CCS,F,15

British Virgin Islands,Peter Crook,FRS,M,9

Bulgaria,Maria Kirkova,ASK,F,13

Canada,Hayley Wickenheiser,ICH,F,35

Cayman Islands,Dow Travers,ASK,M,34

Chile,Dominique Ohaco,FRS,F,82

China,Tong Jiang,FSK,M,38

Chinese Taipei,Sung Ching-Yang,SSK,M,69

Croatia,Ivica Kostelic,ASK,M,79

Cyprus,Constantinos Papamichael,ASK,M,36

Czech Republic,Sarka Strachova,ASK,F,81

Denmark,Lene Nielsen,CUR,F,24

Dominica,Gary Di Silvestri,CCS,M,25

East Timor,Yohan Goncalves Goutt,ASK,M,70

Estonia,Indrek Tobreluts,BIA,M,85

Finland,Enni Rukajarvi,SNB,F,77

France,Jason Lamy-Chappuis,NCO,M,78

Georgia,Nino Tsiklauri,ASK,F,23

Germany,Maria Hoefl-Riesch,ASK,F,21

Great Britain,Jon Eley,STK,M,17

Greece,Panagiota Tsakiri,CCS,F,1

Hong Kong,Pan To-Barton Lui,STK,M,22

Hungary,Bernadett Heidum,STK,F,18

Iceland,Saevar Birgisson,CCS,M,30

Ind. Olympic Athletes,,,,50

Ireland,Conor Lyne,ASK,M,29

Iran,Hossein Saveh Shemshaki,ASK,M,28

Israel,Vladislav Bykanov,STK,M,27

Italy,Armin Zoeggeler,LUG,M,32

Jamaica,Marvin Dixon,BOB,M,86

Japan,Ayumi Ogasawara,CUR,F,87

Kazakhstan,Yerdos Akhmadiyev,CCS,M,33

Korea,Lee Kyou-Hyuk,SSK,M,60

Kyrgyzstan,Dmitry Trelevski,ASK,M,37

Latvia,Sandis Ozolins,ICH,M,39

Lebanon,Alexandre Mohbat,ASK,M,40

Liechtenstein,Tina Weirather,ASK,F,42

Lithuania,Deividas Stagniunas,FSK,M,41

Luxembourg,Kari Peters,CCS,M,43

Macedonia  FYRO,Darko Damjanovski,CCS,M,16

Malta,Elise Pellegrin,ASK,F,44

Mexico,Hubertus Von Hohenlohe,ASK,M,46

Moldova,Victor Pinzaru,CCS,M,47

Monaco,Olivier Jenot,ASK,M,48

Mongolia,Byambadorj Bold,CCS,M,49

Montenegro,Tarik Hadzic,ASK,M,80

Morocco,Adam Lamhamedi,ASK,M,45

Nepal,Dachhiri Sherpa,CCS,M,51

Netherlands,Jorien ter Mors,STK,F,52

New Zealand,Shane Dobbin,SSK,M,53

Norway,Aksel Lund Svindal,ASK,M,54

Pakistan,Muhammad Karim,ASK,F,55

Paraguay,Julia Marino,FRS,F,56

Peru,Roberto Carcelen,CCS,M,57

Philippines,Michael Christian Martinez,FSK,M,76

Poland,Dawid Kupczyk,BOB,M,58

Portugal,Arthur Hanse,ASK,M,59

Romania,Eva Tofalvi,BIA,F,61

Russia,Alexander Zubkov,BOB,M,88

San Marino,Vincenzo Romano Michelotti,ASK,M,62

Serbia,Milanko Petrovic,BIA,M,63

Slovakia,Zdeno Chara,ICH,M,64

Slovenia,Tomaz Razingar,ICH,M,65

Spain,Javier Fernandez,FSK,M,31

Sweden,Anders Soedergren,CCS,M,84

Switzerland,Simon Ammann,SKJ,M,83

Tajikistan,Alisher Qudratov,ASK,M,67

Thailand,Kanes Sucharitakul,ASK,M,68

Togo,Mathilde Amivi Petitjean,CCS,F,71

Tonga,Bruno Banani,LUG,M,72

Turkey,Alper Ucar,FSK,M,73

US Virgin Islands,Jasmine Campbell,ASK,F,20

Ukraine,Valentina Shevchenko,CCS,F,75

United States,Todd Lodwick,NCO,M,66

Uzbekistan,Kseniya Grigoreva,ASK,F,74

Venezuela,Antonio Pardo,ASK,M,19

Zimbabwe,Luke Steyn,ASK,M,26


Events Factsheets

OK, the real action starts tomorrow, with 5 medal events being decided – men’s biathlon 10 km, women’s cross-country skiathlon, women’s freestyle skiing moguls, men’s snowboarding slopestyle, and men’s speed skating 5,000 metres.

We will start posting separate Events Factsheets on this blog in just a few minutes for those events – save slopestyle, which is a new event. These will give all the historical and statistical background anyone will need to understand the event and write a story about it, should you be so inclined.

We have already done Sports Factsheets for all the Winter Olympic sports. The Events Factsheets will contain information that was in those, but will actually have a lot more info for you.

Each morning during the Winter Olympics we will post these, and try to get them out the morning before the actual event concludes so that the media can have them for their stories.

Those First Winter Olympics – in Saint Moritz???

The first Olympic Winter Games were held at Saint Moritz, Switzerland in 1928. What’s that you say? You thought it was at Chamonix, France in 1924? Hang on a second, and we’ll tell you why one can make a case that they actually started in 1928.

The history of the Winter Olympics is a bit complex actually. Pierre de Coubertin was not in favor in Winter Olympic Games, and opposed the idea. The concept started with the Scandinavians who started holding Nordic Games in 1901, and these are regarded as the “precursors to the Winter Olympics.” You can find out a lot about the Nordic Games and the origins of the Winter Olympics in this article by Ron Edgeworth – (A little disclaimer here – Ron Edgeworth is a pseudonym for the author of this post.)

Winter Olympic events were held at the 1908 Olympics in London, when figure skating was contested, and at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, when both figure skating and ice hockey were contested. The 1916 Olympics were scheduled for Berlin although they were never held because of World War I. Those Games also had skiing and skating events on their original program.

The leading figure in the history of the Nordic Games was Sweden’s Viktor Gustaf Balck, who was actually opposed to the idea of Winter Olympics, fearing that they would make his Nordic Games less significant, and in fact, this would happen, as the last Nordic Games would be contested in 1926.

The idea of holding winter sports at the Olympics is mentioned in IOC Sessions as early as 1909, and discussions about this concept are described going right up to the 1924 Chamonix competitions.

I say “Chamonix competitions” because they were never officially called Winter Olympic Games, although to be fair, most of the world’s press did describe them in that way. The working title of the 1924 Chamonix “Winter Olympics” was “Semaine internationale des sports d’hiver” (International Winter Sports Week). If you really want to get pedantic (and we do), their official title in the 1924 Official Report was “Les sports d’hiver organisés du vendredi 25 janvier au mardi 5 février 1924 à Chamonix – Mont Blanc par le Comité Olympique Français avec la collaboration de la Fédération Française des Sports et du Club Alpin Français sous le Haut Patronage du Comité International Olympique à l’occasion de la Célébration des Jeux de la VIIIme Olympiade.”

In May 1925 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) amended the Olympic Charter to allow for Olympic Winter Games. But the 1924 Chamonix International Winter Sports Week was never declared as the 1st Olympic Winter Games by the IOC in the minutes of its sessions, although this has been felt to be an error of a secretary taking the minutes of the session in 1925, as the IOC has long recognized Chamonix as the 1st Olympic Winter Games. Sorry, Saint Moritz.

Olympic Games Official Openings

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will official open the 2014 Olympic Winter Games tonight at the Opening Ceremony – no surprise there as these Games have one man’s stamp on them, Putin, more so than any Olympics since Berlin in 1936.

Vladimir Putin is the current President of Russia, or the highest ranking official in the country. It is standard that Olympic Games are opened by the Head of State of the nation in which the Games are held, per IOC Protocol, although the IOC also contradicts itself by always stating that Games are awarded to cities and not countries. We’ll overlook that.

Since the Modern Olympic Games started in 1896 it has been rare that the nation’s Head of State did not open the Olympics. The United States has been famous for this, as in 1932 at Lake Placid and Los Angeles, 1960 at Squaw Valley, and 1980 at Lake Placid, the US President did not open the Games. In 1932 at Lake Placid it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who at that time was only Governor of New York state. The Los Angeles 1932 Olympics were opened by Vice-President Charles Curtis, as President Herbert Hoover declined to travel to Los Angeles because of his preoccupation with the world-wide depression. In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower did not go to Squaw Valley, with those Games opened by Vice-President Richard Nixon – another Olympics at least opened by a future US President.

And famously, at Lake Placid in 1980, President Jimmy Carter refused to open the Winter Olympics, as he was pressuring the IOC to boycott the Moscow Olympics, and sent Vice-President Walter Mondale in his stead. Mondale also opened the IOC Session in Lake Placid and angered the IOC by his political speech in which he called for a boycott of Moscow.

Finally, in 1984 at Los Angeles, President Ronald Reagan broke the US “tradition” of not sending the President to the Opening Ceremony. US Olympics have since been opened by Presidents Bill Clinton (1996 Atlanta) and George W. Bush (2002 Salt Lake City).

Other than the USA situations, there has been only one other time at which a Head of State did not open an Olympics, and it did occur at the Winter Olympics. That was at the first Winter Olympics, at Chamonix in 1924, which were opened by Gaston Vidal (1888-1949), the French Under-Secretary for Physical Education, rather than French President Alexandre Millerand or Prime Minister Raymond Poincaré. But those first “Winter Olympics” were a bit odd in themselves – more on that in the next blog post.

Some Opening Ceremony Stuff

Opening Ceremony tonite. Always a big moment. And it always happens on Friday night, with the Games then extending for 2 full weeks and 3 weekends, so that NBC and the other television networks get plenty of weekend coverage, right?

Not quite. In fact, at the Winter Olympics, it has only been the last 4 Games – 2002-2014 – which have followed this seemingly standard calendar. One other Winter Olympics started on Friday and ended on Sunday, that being in 1948 at St. Moritz, but the Winter Games lasted only one week back then, with far fewer events.

The Sochi Olympics actually started yesterday, with events in freestyle skiing, figure skating, and snowboarding. That is not that unusual, as we detailed in a post yesterday ( But these Games will then last from 6 February to their conclusion on 23 February, which will be 18 days of Winter Olympics, and that makes Sochi 2014 the longest ever Olympic Winter Games.

It may seem that the Winter Olympics always take place exclusively in February and that is basically now correct, since its been true since 1968. But it was not always so. The first Winter Olympics started on 25 January 1924 in Chamonix, France. The other Winter Games to start in January were 1948, starting 30 January; 1956, starting 26 January; and 1964, which began on 27 January.

No Winter Olympics will ever start that early again, as the IOC and US television networks do not want to go up against the Super Bowl, and with the NFL poised to extend their season to 18, perhaps 20, maybe 26 games per year, we can look to Winter Olympics starting later and later.

No Winter Olympics has ever ended in March, but if the Super Bowl keeps getting pushed back, that may happen someday (or perhaps the Qatar World Cup could also do it). Three Winter Olympics have ended on 28 February, all North American Games – 1960 Squaw Valley, 1988 Calgary, and 2010 Vancouver.

Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremonies have been held on all days of the week except Sunday and Monday, with only the 1968 Grenoble Olympics starting on Tuesday. Thursday and Friday have seen 6 Winter Olympic Openings, with 5 held on Saturday, and 4 on Wednesday.

The same is not the case for the Closing Ceremonies. Olympic Winter Games almost always end on Sunday, and, in fact, the last time this did not happen was 1952 in Oslo, which ended on Monday. The only other times a Winter Games did not end on Sunday was 1924, which ended on Tuesday, and 1932, which officially ended on Saturday. However, in 1932 the final 4-man bobsled runs took place on Monday, 2 days after the Closing Ceremony, because a snowstorm had forced postponement of that event several times.

Events Starting Before the Opening Ceremony

Events started today at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, 1 day before the Opening Ceremony. This is the first time this has happened at the Winter Olympics since 1984, but the 6th time it has happened overall. The years in which competition started before the Opening Ceremony are as follows:


Year,Venue,Opening,Events Start

1964,Innsbruck,29 January, 27 January

1968,Grenoble,6 February,4 February

1976,Innsbruck,4 February,3 February

1980,Lake Placid,13 February,12 February

1984,Sarajevo,8 February,7 February


Note that in 1964 and 1968, events actually started 2 days before the Opening Ceremony.

This is the first time since 1972 that Winter Olympic events started on a Thursday – it also happened in 1932, 1936, 1952, 1956, and 1960.