The pomp and pageantry of the opening ceremony Friday marks the official start of 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Seventeen days of thrills, spills and emotional athletic endeavours that will captivate millions worldwide.
Friday’s extravaganza will officially welcome some 3,500 athletes representing 87 nations. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. (EST), and you but better put your feet up if you are intending to watch live coverage. Upwards of 3,000 artistic performers are slated to take part, performing on three stages in a spectacle sure to last more than four hours.
Here is a day-by-day Olympic highlight guide from a Canadian perspective, to you make sure you don’t miss any of the important action (check local listings for start times):
Regina snowboarder Mark McMorris has insisted the rib he broke Jan. 25 at the Winter X Games should not detract from his status as the gold-medal favourite in the men’s Olympic slopestyle. We’ll find out in the semi-finals and final. Canada will be well represented, with Maxence Parrot of Bromont, Que., and Sebastien Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., also medal threats.
The freestyle skiing gold medal in women’s moguls will also be handed out, and the event will feature the Dufour-Lapointe sisters from Montreal – Justine, Chloé and Maxime – who are all considered medal contenders.
The women’s hockey competition gets rolling with two games, including Canada’s opener against Switzerland.
Erik Guay is the most decorated Canadian World Cup ski racer in history, but the Mont-Tremblant, Que., athlete has never been able to reach the podium in two previous Olympic appearances. Guay hopes to rectify that in the men’s downhill.
Spencer O’Brien of Courtenay, B.C., is considered a legitimate podium threat in women’s snowboard slopestyle competition.
The team event in figure skating is making its Olympic debut and Canada figures to do well. Canada has qualified an Olympic-high 17 skaters for Sochi and is the top qualifying country for the team event.
Speed skating’s Charles Hamelin of Levis, Que., a triple-medal threat in Sochi, will begin his Olympic journey in the men’s short-track 1,500 metres.
Canadian medal hopefuls will be all over the bumps in the freestyle skiing men’s moguls event, with podium favourites Mikaël Kingsbury, the 2013 World Cup champion from Deux-Montagnes, Que., and Alexandre Bilodeau, the defending Olympic champion from Montreal, set to take centre stage.
Canada’s women’s hockey team will play Finland.
Montreal’s Kaya Turski, the 2013 world champion and gold medalist at the Winter X Games, is prepared to show she has fully recovered from knee surgery last August in the women’s freestyle ski slopestyle event. She will be pushed by 19-year-old Dara Howell of Huntsville, Ont.
The sliders also get going, with Calgary’s Alex Gough hoping to give the heavily favoured German contingent a run for their money in women’s luge.
The Olympic curling competition is still in its early stages, but there is an interesting meeting featuring Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Sweden’s Nicklas Edin. Canada will be looking to avenge a loss to Sweden in the gold-medal game at the world championship last April.
Canada’s figure-skating contingent gets to flex its muscles in the pairs free skate, with Meagan Duhamel, of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford, of Balmerton, Ont., two-time national champions, taking the ice. Canada has qualified a total of three teams for the event.
Canada and the United States will resume their fierce rivalry in women’s hockey, with a preliminary round contest.
Canada’s men’s hockey team, led by captain Sidney Crosby, will make its much-anticipated Olympic debut on the big ice with its opening preliminary round game against Norway.
Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., will get the chance to defend her Olympic title in the women’s long-track speed skating 1,000 metres.
The luge mixed-team relay will be presented as a new Olympic sport, and the Canadian team of Gough, Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith – all of Calgary – is expected to medal.
Canada has a glorious international skating reputation, but not so much at the Olympics, where it has never been able to win a men’s gold. Patrick Chan of Toronto, the three-time world champion and seven-time Canadian champ, will be looking to rewrite the record book in Sochi. Kevin Reynolds of North Vancouver (runner-up to Chan at the Canadian championship) will be making his Olympic debut.
The mighty Austrians will provide the opposition for Canada’s men’s hockey team in its second game.
The quarter-finals in women’s hockey are on tap and, barring a major upset, both Canada and the United States are expected to be playing.