The Olympic cauldron in Sochi was lit on Friday—ending a long and successful torch relay—and officially inaugurating the XXII Olympic Winter Games.
Millions of people are tuning in to watch the international athletes ski, skate, and tumble to the finish line. But Sochi conjures up more than sports to many viewers.
The most expensive Olympics to date are taking place amid steep security concerns and in the shadow of a widely condemned Russian law on homosexuality. President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister David Cameron begged off the opening ceremony this year, but none explained why. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, attended, as did many other world leaders, especially from eastern and central Europe. (Read "Putin's Party" in National Geographic magazine.)
Once the competitions began, spectators and commentators turned their attention from politics to the athletes. There are 98 events for seven winter sports scheduled to take place over the next two weeks. An estimated 31.7 million Americans watched the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, and more are projected to watch at least an hour of coverage.
National Geographic asked readers to submit their photos of the games and received an enthusiastic response. These photos were submitted to Your Shot over the weekend.
Actresses reenact a ritual dance during a rehearsal for the Olympic flame handover. Russia originally received the torch from the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece, the site of the original modern games. The Olympic flame arrived in Sochi on Wednesday, February 5, after five months on the road. The official torch was lit at the opening ceremony.
Fans celebrate in Sochi, where thousands of people from around the world have gathered for the Olympic Games. An estimated 40,000 fans and 3,000 athletes watched the opening ceremony from the stands of the Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday. Millions watched from home.
After winning the Olympic bid in 2007, Russia immediately started construction of the site for the Games. But the project soon fell behind and over budget. The area shown here under construction now hosts the Adler Arena Skating Center, the Fisht Olympic Stadium, and the Bolshoy Ice Dome. (See satellite images of Sochi showing the complete face-lift.)
The Olympic torch relay team traveled a total of 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) in five months. It passed through the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia, on October 27, 2013. During its brief stay there, it was passed among 221 people. According to photographer Konstantin Sakhin, the event was heavily protected by police and soldiers.
A dazzling display of fireworks lit up the sky over the Olympic village during Friday's opening ceremonies. Representatives from 88 countries are competing in this year's event—up from 82 countries in 2010. Included in the mix are athletes from several countries with warmer climates, including the Jamaican bobsled team, which raised the money to attend through crowdsourcing.
The Olympic Winter Games will end on Sunday, February 23, but there's plenty of time to submit your Olympic photos. Check out the new and improved Your Shot website, where you can share photos, take part in assignments, lend your voice to stories, and connect with fellow photographers from around the globe.
Contribute to our coverage of the Olympics by tagging #sochi2014 when you upload.