Like Selfies to a Flame
The Olympic flame in Sochi has become a selfie hotspot.
Taking a self-portrait with a cellphone camera has become wildly popular, and the opportunity do it with one of the most iconic Olympic symbols in the background is proving to be one of the biggest attractions at the Sochi Games.
In fact, so many people are doing it upon entering Olympic Park that a bit of a competition has broken out, with fans going for unique poses to set themselves apart from the flood of flame selfies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
A state-run children's ballet ensemble from the nearby city of Rostov-on-Don broke into a choreographed dance when Swan Lake came over the loudspeakers, while their instructor took pictures with the flame just behind them.
"We're seeing it for the first time," Yulya Podgurskaya says. "It's very beautiful."
For some Russians, it's become a can't-miss chance to express some patriotism and revel in having the biggest sporting event in the world in their backyard.
Philip Shustov went one step further, putting his 10-year-old son back in Moscow on FaceTime on his iPhone to let him see the flame.
Shustov says the flame is the defining symbol "of the games, of New Russia. I don't remember previous Olympic Games because I was only 3 years old. Now it's history here in Russia."
Russia is hosting the Olympics for the first time since the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.
Putin Misses A Glitch
A series of photos by the AP's David Goldman appear to show Vladimir Putin missing the glitch that prevented an Olympic ring from lighting up during the opening ceremony. This photo shows Putin facing away from a monitor when the glitch happened...
...then turning toward it after Russian television switched to rehearsal footage that displayed all five rings.
Music To Her Ears
As Jamie Anderson was hopping around elated at the base of the women's slopestyle course, having just completed Team USA's double gold in slopestyle, you have to think the folks back home in Cupertino, Calif., were thrilled to see those two little white earbuds hanging out of her jacket.
Maybe winning gold while rocking out is to be expected in a sport the Winter Games adopted from the X Games. And sure, there's always been a wonderful connection between music and winter sports. What's a gold-medal winning figure skate if not the perfect combination of dynamic athleticism and the perfect soundtrack?
Still, it's fun to think about where those earbuds might make another appearance here in Sochi. Canada's Jonathan Toews sliding into a faceoff with an iPhone strapped to his arm? Visible under the skin-tight suit of Dutch hero Sven Kramer as he glides for 10,000 meters around the rink at the Adler Arena Skating Center? Four heads bobbing up and down in unison to the sounds of the beat as a four-man bobsled team slides down the track at Sanki?
No, my guess would be over at the Ice Cube for a little curling. And if we're gonna go with clichés, then they'll all be listening to polka.
And for those folks back in Cupertino? It's all music to their ears.
Bode Flames Out
Bode Miller knew as soon as he crossed the finish line, and probably long before that.
The American skier entered his fifth Olympics with high hopes. When he didn't live up to them in the men's downhill on Sunday, his disappointment was evident. Miller slumped over and put his hands on his knees, holding the pose for a few long moments as he contemplated a medal that slipped away.
The New Hampshire native was one of the pre-race favorites thanks to his superb performance in the training sessions last week. At the time of his finish, Miller was eighth of 22 skiers, far out of medal contention.
When Miller finished, television cameras panned to his wife, Morgan Beck. Her face dropped and the sunglasses she was wearing couldn't hide the heartache.
All is not lost yet, though: Miller still has two more chances to medal, in the Super-G and the super combined.
Julia Clinches First Russian Gold
Julia Lipnitskaia competed during the long program on Sunday night, a performance that clinched Russia's first gold in Sochi, in team figure skating.
Sochi: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the bobsled USA-1.
If the American bobsled team finds itself in a jam at the Sochi Games, it appears they can call on Capt. James Tiberius Kirk to get them out of it.
William Shatner is an avid Olympic fan, and he's been tweeting out congratulatory messages to the medal winners this weekend. But he seems to have particular interest in the USA bobsled team, especially after seeing a picture circulate of McKinney, Texas, native Johnny Quinn breaking through a bathroom door after he was locked in.
"Please send my best wishes to your teammates," Shatner tweets to American bobsledder Nick Cunningham, a native of Monterey, Calif. "And no more broken doors! Make sure you save a
piece of the door to show your kids."
"Eating beef jerky, listening to @Jason_Aldean, tweeting with @WilliamShatner.... not a bad morning at the @Olympics," Cunningham tweets.
Mom, Dad -- thanks
Skiing sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won over many new fans as the first Canadian siblings to medal in the same Olympic event.
But in a packed news conference Sunday, Chloe wept as she reflected on two of their most important: their parents.
"I'm sorry I'm overwhelmed," said the 22-year-old women's moguls silver-medalist. "This is the best moment in my life."
She said she and her two sisters - 19-year-old gold-medalist Justine and 25-year-old Maxine, who competed in the same event but didn't place - knew they couldn't let their parents down after they'd made sure their daughters had everything they needed to participate in sports.
"You would think that it's not a big deal because it's a run down the hill," Chloe Dufour-Lapointe said. "But there are years of training behind it and I just told myself, 'You have to be very brave, you have to do what you can.'"
The moment loosened up a tightly orchestrated news conference, with French and English-speaking journalists squabbling about which language answers should be spoken in and where everyone should stand when the athletes entered the room with their parents.
The middle sister made the affair a family celebration, where the girls and their parents talked about sharing pea soup, summers on a sailboat and sibling rivalry.
And the future, too - Maxine said she plans to definitely compete again to try to match her sisters, and Justine speculated about launching a clothing line.
Sitting next to them, their father Yves Lapointe was asked about the sacrifices he'd made to get them to that point.
The engineer said he wouldn't put things that way.
"It's all about choices - what you want to do," he said. "Sacrifices, I don't think is the right word. Choice is much better."
Picture this scene: Friday night, just before the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, in what's called the "presidential lounge" of Fisht Stadium. In the hospitality industry, that phrase "presidential" is often thrown around with very little meaning.
Not on this night.
Here was the president of Ukraine, waiting it out until the festivities began. Here was Vladimir Putin, master of all he surveyed, waiting to open the Olympics that meant so much to him and his nation.
And over there, by the bar, waiting for a cup of coffee, was Hamid Karzai - president of Afghanistan, the nation that Putin's country had invaded in 1979.
Karzai had no entourage to speak of. He might have been with one other person, but while in the room he was basically alone. AP Photographer David Goldman, who made this photograph, was intrigued.
"I noticed him waiting at the bar, alone. He waited patiently, waiting to kind of be noticed," Goldman recalls. "Just like any other regular Joe trying to get a drink. That's what kind of struck me about it."
After a time, Karzai received his coffee and turned away from the bar. He was, still, alone: no one to talk to, no one to run interference for him.
Finally, his eyes found the president of Azerbaijan. They turned toward each other and talked, two world leaders in a presidential lounge, watching others of their kind - the biggest names of their nations, up close, looking human after all.
The Olympic competition isn't just in the venues. It's pretty fierce at the Olympic superstore too.
Located in the Olympic Park near Fisht Stadium, the store carries a variety of souvenirs from the Sochi Games.
The wait to get in stretched to 25 minutes at one point on Sunday, with a handful of people being let in at a time.
Inside, customers jammed the area with jackets, hoodies and T-shirts, trying on items in the aisle and casting aside any they didn't want. Clothing piled up on shelves with sizes mixed together.
Plush mascots of varying sizes awaited buyers. There were coffee cups, towels, key chains, magnets, nesting dolls and suitcases to get it all home. White mittens with colored fingers and 'Sochi 2014' selling for 500 rubles (about $14) were piled in big boxes. A wall of cubby holes containing more T-shirts was being ransacked by customers checking out the designs and sizes. Women trying on charm bracelets circled the jewelry counter.
Surprisingly, the store didn't have a single Olympic pin for sale, unlike previous superstores that featured a wide variety of the souvenirs popular with collectors and traders.
The Long Term Plan
In broad terms, Sochi's current moment in the global spotlight during the Winter Olympics will be brief. But Russia hopes its grand plan for its most southwestern city will endure.
It's the next step beyond the opening ceremony themes Russia hopes to carry through the games - the self-portrayal of a country rich in history and ready to be world class. Sochi's new facade was built from swampland amid all kinds of criticism - environmental, labor, political abuses to go along with graft - yet its developers see it as not only a city, but a destination.
Top-tier sporting events like Formula One racing, soccer and, of course, all sorts of winter sports. Regular cruise stops, a Disneyland-like theme park and all kinds of supporting infrastructure, including 12,000 nearby hotel rooms.
"We are looking forward to active Russians coming to our area," said Dmitry Kozak, Russia's deputy prime minister.
The optimist's projections: doubling tourism to 6 million visitors per year and creating 600,000 jobs in the arenas, hotels and other supporting businesses, including construction.
The vision sounds like early plans for other resort destinations built from scratch on less-than-desirable land, like Macau and Las Vegas, with a classic build-and-they'll-come philosophy.
"The legacy plan for Sochi infrastructure is solid and profound," said Dmitry Chernyshenko, chief executive of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee. "There will be no white elephants."