One of the greatest goaltenders of all time and an innovative figure skater who won three straight Olympic pairs titles lit the cauldron together Friday night at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games.
Vladislav Tretiak and Irina Rodnina were given the honor of sparking the cauldron that will burn throughout Russia’s first Winter Olympics.
They were handed the torch by Alina Kabayeva, a former Olympic champion gymnast who has been linked romantically with Russian President Vladimir Putin, although the Kremlin has denied it. Other torchbearers in the final group were wrestling great Alexander Karelin, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and tennis star Maria Sharapova.
Tretiak was a star goalie on the great Soviet Union hockey teams of the 1970s and ‘80s, winning gold medals in 1972, 1976 and 1984.
But the Hall of Famer only got silver after his team was upset by the United States in the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980. In the first period of that game, Tretiak allowed two goals, and Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov unexpectedly replaced him with Vladimir Mishkin in an apparent move to shake up his complacent team.
“It was difficult for me to sit on the bench with the score 2-2,” Tretiak said at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, the 30th anniversary of the upset. “If I played the second and third period, the game might have turned a different way.”
Tretiak also was part of 10 world championship Soviet teams.
Rodnina won her three gold medals with two different partners at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympics. She also won 10 world pairs titles in a row, matching the great Sonja Henie.
She was known for pioneering moves that made her the dominant female pairs skater of her era. After winning the 1972 Olympic title with Alexei Ulanov, she won the following two golds with Alexander Zaitsev.
She moved to the United States in 1990 to work as a coach and guided a Czech pair to a world title. Today she is a member of parliament as a member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and an outspoken critic of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
A tweet of Rodnina’s from last year — a photo of President Barack Obama doctored to include a banana — drew new attention online Friday. She didn’t explain the tweet at the time and later took down the photo, but later defended it with another tweet, saying “Freedom of speech is freedom!”
Illegal streams enable early US ceremony viewing
NBC’s decision not to stream a feed of the Winter Olympic opening ceremony live in the United States didn’t mean that video couldn’t be found.
Links to the ceremony from other sources popped up online Friday on social media sites like Twitter, sometimes accompanied by complaints about NBC’s decision. NBC has rights to Olympic video in the United States, but there are other rights holders outside the country that aired the ceremony live.
NBC said Friday that a “very small number of users” watched online instead of waiting for the network’s prime-time coverage. During the London Olympics in 2012, NBC estimated that less than 2 percent of Olympics video viewed in the United States was not from NBC’s official feed.
The network would not discuss anti-piracy efforts taken in conjunction with the International Olympic Committee.
The ceremony over, NBC is showing all of the competition live online or on cable TV. No decision has been announced on the closing ceremony, although NBC streamed that online. There is a nine-hour time difference between the eastern United States and Sochi.
Obama to Team USA: ’We couldn’t be prouder of you’
President Barack Obama says America “couldn’t be prouder of” its athletes who are competing in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
The White House released a brief video of Obama Friday. The president tells the skiers, figure skaters, snowboarders, bobsledders and other members of Team USA that they are an inspiration to the nation.
Obama tells team members America will be watching and rooting for them.
First lady Michelle Obama expressed her pride in the team on Twitter.
The U.S. has sent some 230 athletes to the Sochi Olympics, the largest delegation ever for any country at the Winter Games. Opening ceremonies were Friday. The Games run through Feb. 23.