Feb. 23, 2014 at 8:42 AM ET
It’s hard to believe, but the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics is already upon us. Who will be there? Which athlete will bear the American flag? Will the Olympic rings work properly this time around? And what will become of Fisht Olympic Stadium when all the festivities end? For answers to these and even more burning questions, check out the whole collection here.
What happens to that stadium after the Winter Olympics conclude?
Fisht Olympic Stadium, the site of the Closing Ceremony, will be used for the upcoming Paralympic Games before becoming a venue for the Russian national soccer team. The 40,000-seat stadium will be a site for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and it also will serve as a training center for future Winter Olympians. In addition, it’s expected to be used as a concert venue and for other large events, according to the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee.
Does everyone go to the Closing Ceremony?
No. Athletes can leave the Games after their particular events have concluded, and many go home for media tours after big wins. For instance, as any dedicated TODAY viewer knows, slopestyle skiing medalists Gus Kenworthy, Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper were in New York on Thursday to appear on TODAY with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. That trio has been on a full media blitz since sweeping the medals in slopestyle skiing in Sochi earlier in the Games.
But some athletes have left Sochi for more distressing reasons. Several Ukrainian athletes returned home due to worries about their family members and friends in Kiev, where deadly riots have raged. The Ukrainian athletes who do stay for the Closing Ceremony have been permitted to wear black armbands if they wish in memory of victims of the protests.
Chilean skier Noelle Barahona tried to return home over the weekend to be with her family and friends in the wake of a massive earthquake in Chile, but she could not get a flight. Reassured that people back home were safe, she is staying for the Closing Ceremony. Her two teammates, Maui Gayme and Jorge Mandru, have already left Sochi for France and Seattle, respectively.
How much money and effort go into the Closing Ceremony compared with the Opening Ceremony?
The Closing Ceremony is a spectacle, but not on the level (or cost) of the Opening Ceremony. While the Sochi Games are the most expensive Olympics, Winter or Summer, in history — with a reported price tag of $51 billion — no breakdown has been released for the costs of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
The Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle, cost a reported $45 million and was watched by a worldwide audience of 900 million, according to Reuters. The Closing Ceremony in London, featuring performers like George Michael and the Spice Girls, cost $33 million and was viewed by 750 million people worldwide.
At the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, the Opening Ceremony had a budget of $40 million, with just under $20 million devoted to the Closing Ceremony.
Will there be any reference to the 2018 Winter Olympics?
Part of the tradition at the Closing Ceremony is the symbolic acknowledgement of the next country to host a Winter Olympics, which will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. Accordingly, on Sunday a jazz vocalist, soprano, pianist and musician from South Korea will perform after the flag-handover ceremony from Russia to South Korea.
Will the five Olympic rings open after failing to do so during the Opening Ceremony?
The mechanical glitch has reportedly been fixed. Olympic organizers say there will not be a repeat of the “four rings and a snowflake” malfunction from the Opening Ceremony when one of the five snowflakes failed to morph into an Olympic ring.
Will there be any special guests among the U.S. delegation?
Though she missed the Opening Ceremony because of her mother’s illness, tennis legend Billie Jean King will be part of the U.S. delegation at the Closing Ceremony. King, who is openly gay, was selected by President Barack Obama as part of the delegation before the Games. Russia has faced criticism over its controversial anti-gay propaganda law enacted last summer.
"While I am not planning to protest or demonstrate, I am concerned with the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia and throughout the world,’’ King wrote in a first-person piece for CNN last month. “I want the LGBT community living in Russia to know they are not alone and I hope others realize this is not only a gay rights issue, but a global concern for human rights and equality.”
Will the same U.S. athlete carry the flag for the American delegation at the Closing Ceremony?
No, a different athlete is selected by his or her peers to carry the flag for each ceremony. Six-time Olympian Todd Lodwick, a skier who competes in the Nordic combined, carried the flag at the Opening Ceremony. For the Closing Ceremony, U.S. women’s hockey player Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian who was part of the silver-medal-winning team in Sochi, has been selected by her fellow U.S. Olympians to carry the flag.
“I might physically be getting a chance to carry the flag, but it’s really because our women’s hockey team has been such an inspiration,’’ Chu said Friday on TODAY.
Also, the U.S. athletes will not follow the flag bearer, which is a tradition that began at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. The flag bearers of each nation will come out in their own procession together, and then the athletes from each country will emerge separate from the flag bearers.