7 February 2014

Flag bearers for the 2014 Winter Olympics: Part One #Sochi2014

So later on today we have the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, one thing we do know is most of who the NOCs have nominated to carry their flag into the stadium ahead of their nation's competitors and coaches. The other thing is that this is the second Olympics in which the order of the nations will be determined by the Cyrillic alphabet.

So in my attempt to tell you who is coming in next I am having to test myself on a language I had a vague knowledge off when I was there in 1989. So in order of appearance (I hope) here are the first batch.

Greece - Греция Panagiota Tsakiri is 23 and from Drama. But despite her young age this is her third Winter Olympics and she is contesting the women's 10km classical cross-country, although unlike in previous Games she's not doubling up with the biathlon. Greece of course traditionally lead the way as the inventors of the Games and first hosts of the modern Olympiad.

Australia - Австралия Alex Pullin is the reigning snow boarder cross world champion. He took part in the 2010 Olympic but despite having the fastest time in qualification he failed to progress once the competition got underway proper. He fronts a reggae band Love Charli quite a character to be the second flag bearer into the Fisht Stadium.

Austria - Австрия Benjamin Raich turns 36 just after the Games finish and is appearing in what is his fourth Olympics. He won two gold medals in Turin in 2006 in men's slalom and giant slalom, to add to his two bronzes in slalom and combined. He is likely to take part in the slalom, giant slalom, super-g and super combined once again. Benny Raich has delayed his arrival in Sochi and Mario Stecher was named instead who is a Nordic combined competitor who has taken part in the five previous Olympics going back to Lillehammer. He has twice help Austria to the 4x5km relay gold in 2006 and 2010 as well as bronze in 2002

Azerbaijan - Азербайджан Fuad Guliyev is the Figure Skating Federation vice-President and will carry his nation's flag into the stadium. His nations competitors are in the alpine events and the ice dance, the latter of which starts in the morning.

Albania - Албания Enjon Tola aged 27 from Tirana, taking part  in his third Olympics in the slalom and giant slalom.

Andorra - Aндорра Mireia Gutierrez is an Apline skier who is taking part in her second Games, after Vancouver. She is entered in all the women's Alpine events.

Argentina - Аргентина Cristian Simari Birkner is a veteran from three previous Games and also carried the flag in 2010. The 33-year-old from  San Carlos de Bariloche is entered in all the Alpine disciplines including the men's combined.

Armenia - Армения Sergey Mikayelyan is the 21-year-old cross country skiier who will be taking part in his second Games. His events this time are the men's 15km classical, 30km skiathlon and 50km freestyle.

British Virgin Isles - Британские Виргинские Oстрова Peter Crook the Caribbean Island nation is sending their second ever competitor to the Winter Games and the 21 year old who has lived in the United States for the last 13 years will take part in the skiing halfpipe.

Belarus - Беларусь Darya Domracheva the 27 year old cross-country skier and biathlete who took bronze in the 2010 women's 15km individual cross-country race. This year she is only taking part in the biathlon.

Belgium - Бельгия Hanna Mariën is at her second Olympics but first Winter Games. She was part of the women's 4x100m relay in the athletics at Beijing in 2008 which won the silver medal. In 2012 she switched to bobsleigh and will be the brake woman for Elfje Willemsen.

Bermuda - Бермудские Oстрова Tucker Murphy is the sole Bermudan competitor. He is expected to appear in Bermuda shorts, but not when he is competing the men's 15km classical cross country skiing event.

Bulgaria - Болгария Maria Kirkova at 28 is taking part in her third Winter Games. The alpine skier will be taking part in the women's slalom and giant slalom.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Босния и Герцеговина Žana Novaković the 28 year old will be carrying her nations flag for a second consecutive Games.  There is a little controversy that she was picked ahead of fellow Alpine skier Muslim-Croat Igor Laikert who had the better results. She will however be competing in slalom and giant slalom.

Brazil - Бразилия Jaqueline Mourão is a biathlete who will be carrying the flag of the host of the next Summer Games. At 38 she will taking part in her third Game since her debut at Turin 2006.

Great Britain - Великобритания Jon Eley the shot track speed skater from Solihull is taking part in his third Olympic Games. he came 5th in the 500m at Torino in 2006 and was part of the GB team that came 6th in the 5,000m relay in Vancouver 4 years ago. The 29-year-old is taking part in the men's 500m and 1,000m.

Hungary - Венгрия Bernadett Heidum the 25 year old short track speed skater from Budapest is making her Olympic debut. But she picked up two medals in the European championships earlier this year. She'll be competing in the 500m, 1,000m and the event she won silver at in Europe the 1,500m and joining the European bronze medal women's 3,000m relay team.

Venezuela - Венесуэла Antonio Jose Pardo Andretta is the first ever of the five Venezualan Winter Olympians to qualify in a snow event. He will be taking part in the men's giant slalom.

Virgin Islands - Виргинские Oстрова Jasmine Campbell is the daughter of Virgin Islands skier John Campbell who took park in 1992 at Albertville. Unlike her father she is only taking part in two events slalom and giant slalom, not adding the Super-G which he took part in.

Germany - Германия Maria Höfl-Riesch won double gold four years ago in her debut Games in the women's slalom and combined. Injury has forced the native of 1936 German Winter Olympic venue Garmisch-Partenkirchen to missed the Games in 2006. She is entered in all the Alpine discipline and with medals at worlds and Olympics in most of them is a contender every time she leaves the start gate.

Hong Kong - Гонконг Pan-To Barton Lui the first male Winter Olympian to represent Hog Kong will carry their flag on his debut. The short track speed skater follows his female predecessors and will skate in the 1,500m on Monday. 

Georgia - Грузия Nino Tsiklauri the Alpine skier is stepping up to the plate as figure skater Elene Gedevanishvili was originally names as the flag bearer, but her training schedule means she is not arriving until after the ceremony. So the 20-year-old who will ski in the women's slalom and giant slalom will carry her nation's flag into the stadium.

This is the first installment. As you can see the order will not be what you expect from an English language nation opening ceremony so pay attention if you want to see your nation arrive.

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