Hunger Games or Sochi Opening Ceremony? Your burning questions answered

The Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games kicked off on Friday night with a montage of dreamlike imagery, as surreal sets floated into the Fisht Olympic Stadium. But why was that girl in a nightgown? And what about that snowflake that didn't turn into an Olympic Ring? And why is everyone wearing those enormous headresses?

We've got these and more of your Opening Ceremony burning questions covered here:

Paul Gilham / Today
Liza Temnikova as the character of Lubov during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Why was that girl in a nightgown?

Because the theme of the ceremony is "Dreams of Russia," and opens during a little girl's dream —Lubov, whose name means love in Russian, guides the viewers "on a journey of thousands of years."

Mark Humphrey / Today
One of the rings forming the Olympic Rings fails to open during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

What was the deal with the Olympic ring fail?

At the beginning of the ceremony, a set of snowflakes began morphing into the five Olympic rings. Except only four snowflakes turned into rings, and the one at the end failed to make the transition. Oops. "Looks like we have a little bit of a glitch here," said Matt Lauer, noting that the mishap came amid a very "ambitious" Opening Ceremony. Judges' verdict? Four out of five.

While it caused a big splash on social media, it's not the first time the Opening Ceremony has seen a technical malfunction. In 2010 in Vancouver, four torchbearers went to simultaneously light the Olympic torch, but speedskater Catriona LeMay was left standing awkwardly holding a flame because one of the four columns did not rise up on cue to be lit. 



Why were there so many empty seats? 

The newly-built Fisht Olympic Stadium seats 40,000, but there were a conspicuous number of empty seats when the Opening Ceremony got underway. That's because those seats were reserved — for the athletes entering the stadium for the Parade of Nations! "Don't worry," Meredith Vieira assured viewers. "That's where the athletes are going to sit."

Hunger Games or the Sochi Opening Ceremony?

What was with the "Hunger Games"-esque style?

The over-the-top headgear worn by the escorts in the Parade of Nations may have surprised Americans, but is very familiar in Sochi as it's based in Russian lore. The onion-shaped “kokoshnik” is the headdress worn by Snegurochka, the “snow maiden” linked with two Russian myths. One story is a centuries-old peasant folk tale and the other, a modern version involving Father Frost, the Soviet version of Santa Claus. “That’s why every Russian knows exactly who Snegurochka is — she is the symbol of winter,” said Anton Fedyashin, executive director of American University’s Initiative for Russian Culture.



And while they garnered quite a few comparisons to the costumes from the "Hunger Games" movies, it turns out they're actually pretty common in Russia. “Every year tens of thousands of Russian girls are hired to don the costume Snegurochka and appear at different events," Fedyashin says, "just like you’d have Santa Claus in malls here.”

Quinn Rooney / Today
Skier Luke Steyn of the Zimbabwe Olympic team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Why did Zimbabwe walk so early? And why did it go from Iceland to Spain? Weren't they supposed to be in alphabetical order?

The nations did enter alphabetically — but according to the Cyrillic alphabet, the writing system used in Russia. Hence the not-so-familiar order of the countries. Greece went first, as it always does, and Russia was scheduled to walk last.

Indian athletes starting as Independent Olympic Participants enter the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.

Why were the Indian athletes introduced as "Independent Olympic Participants"?

The three Olympians competing from India entered Fisht Stadium under the Olympic flag, as Independent competitors. "The IOC suspended India’s Olympic membership 14 months ago after the Indian Olympic Committee elected several corrupt officials," Meredith explained, citing Indian luger Shiva Keshavan's comments that the situation was "sad and embarrassing" but that "in my heart and mind I will be competing for India.”


But I wanted to see those military-looking guys singing Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"!

You're in luck! The Russian Red Army Choir, whose original performance of "Get Lucky" has received more than four million views on YouTube, showed off their skills again in a performance before the Opening Ceremony. Though their number took place before the show, you can watch it in all its glory here.

Their original video shows the all-male choir in police uniforms singing, dancing and making cheeky nods to the camera. The choir also has covered other pop songs, most notably Adele’s James Bond tune, Skyfall.