The lavish spectacle that will unfold at Fisht Stadium during the Opening Ceremony in Sochi on Friday had its humble beginnings in a warehouse studio in Queens, New York.
Renowned production designer George Tsypin has been tasked with creating a show expected to dazzle the 40,000 in attendance and the estimated three billion people worldwide who will be watching on television. The Opening Ceremony will begin on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET, with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira narrating the action.
Tsypin, an American who was born in Kazakhstan, has worked on productions ranging from the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow to "Spiderman: Turn off the Dark" on Broadway. He and his team worked on the designs and creations for the Opening Ceremony at his warehouse studio in New York City.
"I’ve done big shows, but this is something else,'' Tsypin told Vieira on TODAY Friday. "It’s truly mind-boggling. Of course the ambition comes from the Russians to create the biggest show ever because they say, ‘We are a big country, we have to do it.’''
The ceremony consists of 18 chapters covering 1,000 years of Russian history, with the thrust of the event centering around Russian classical music and dance traditions, ceremony producer Konstantin Ernst said at a press conference in Sochi on Friday. Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko will sing the Olympic anthem in Russian, and president Vladimir Putin will announce the opening of the Games. As for anyone hoping to see Putin air-dropped onto the stage like Queen Elizabeth at the 2012 Olympics in London, don't hold your breath.
"Don't hope for that,'' Ernst said.
The Russian band t.A.T.u will be one of the few contemporary bands to perform as part of the ceremony. The band has been a vocal supporter of the LGBT movement, which has protested Russian anti-gay laws that were enacted in July and ban the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors. The band will perform its song "Not Gonna Get Us" during the "Moskca/The Dream" segment, which will come shortly before the lighting of the Olympic flame.
The group features a pair of female singers who stirred controversy when they first started performing a decade ago and occasionally stripped and kissed one another onstage. The band was included in the Opening Ceremony because "they are one of the few Russian bands with world recognition," Ernst told reporters.
During the introduction of the athletes, images of the Earth will be projected onto the floor and the "Earth" will rotate following the alphabetical order of the countries whose athletes are being announced. Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick will lead the U.S. delegation as the flag bearer.
"In terms of design, we’ve produced a lot of things right here in this studio, but this is more than just a design, it’s a huge collaboration of many different specialists from all over the world,'' Tsypin said.
Tsypin and his team were only able to get into Fisht Stadium about a month ago as part of the preparation for Friday, according to Lauer.
"Every time I arrive in Sochi, and I see these things that we discussed actually happening on this enormous scale, and you feel, ‘Are you serious? Are you actually doing this?’'' Tsypin told Vieira. "It’s just an idea I had in the middle of the night and now it’s actually happening."
"There are a few little kinks, but it is so ambitious that if they pull it off, it’s going to be fantastic,'' Vieira said.