A full contingent of Sochi-based New Zealand athletes will be marching in this morning’s (Sochi time, 2000h 7 Feb, NZ 5am 8 Feb) Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, a showcase spectacular featuring the best of Russia as the host nation welcomes the world.
Led by Manuwatu’s Shane Dobbin, carrying the New Zealand flag and wearing the New Zealand Olympic Team’s feather cloak, fourteen athletes will enter the stadium in 53rd position flanked by Norway and the Netherlands.
The athletes will be in traditional black and white, made by New Zealand Olympic Team sponsor Peak Clothing, with the silver fern a strong element. Somewhat unusual among teams here in Sochi, the New Zealand Olympic Team’s uniform will also feature the words New Zealand written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
The athletes will be kept warm with gear from the official woolly underwear provider, Wanaka-based Mons Royale.
Chef de Mission Pete Wardell said the athletes are excited about the ceremony tonight. “We’re delighted all of the athletes in Sochi can march. They’ll be proud to march behind our flag and share in the excitement of what is expected to be a magnificent opening ceremony.”
While the content of the ceremony is a tightly guarded secret the buzz around the Olympic Park indicates classical Russian music, theatre and ballet will feature. Fireworks rehearsals over the previous week have also given a snippet of the spectacular light show the world can expect at Fisht Stadium.
The athletes based in the mountain village will be bused directly by luxury coach to the ceremony and back. Road closures are in place as organisers execute highly complex transport, security and operational planning bringing the 2500 athletes into the ceremony.
Flag bearer Dobbin kicks off competition on Saturday evening, just 24 hours after the ceremony but has plans in place to ensure he’s in good shape for the 5,000m. “We’ve got him a cushion,” said Wardell. “He’ll be kept warm and comfortable and we’ll make sure he’s not on his feet too much. Fortunately his accommodation is also very close to the stadium.”
Dobbin sees the 5,000m as a warm up ahead of the 10,000m on the 18th.
Only freeskier Janina Kuzma is yet to arrive in Sochi for the Olympic Games.