ALL THE NEWS, ACTION AND REACTION LIVE FROM SOCHI 2014 AS IT HAPPENS!
By Duncan Mackay in Sochi and Zjan Shirinian in London
Click refresh for latest updates. All times stated are Russian
23:24 That seems an appropriate place to end for the night on a day when events were held at the Winter Olympics before the Opening Ceremony for the first time since Sarajevo in 1984. We will be back tomorrow for the build-up to the official opening of the Games when we are expecting a spectacular show from the Russians. See you then!
"Obviously it has been a bit of a weird atmosphere because the Games haven't formally started yet. We've had the flag-raising ceremony for the rest of Team GB but I kind of had to shut myself away and focused on what I had to do."
- Matthew Parr after skating in the mixed team event, meaning he was the first British single male figure skater to compete at the Olympics since Steven Cousins in 1998.
Home nation ahead in mixed team event
23:14 Russian duo Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have put their country in pole position in the mixed team event, after comfortably skating their way to the top of the leaderboard. With 83.79 from the judges, their 10 points for winning the pairs' short programme - added to the nine secured by Yevgeny Plushenko earlier - means they lead going into Saturday's skates. Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford came second, which is where their country lies overall. China are third overall. Scroll down to 19:00 for a full explanation on how the competition works.
Russian billionaire "to help save dogs being exterminated in Sochi"
22:45 Oleg Deripaska, an aluminium oligarch, is understood to have given a donation to charity PovoDog to provide shelters for dogs roaming Sochi, after reports some have been poisoned by Games organisers.
"I hurt my man parts really bad. I was really embarrassed to tell people. I quickly ran up to the rooms up there and checked myself. I'm gonna have to get on the ice tonight."
- Australian snowboarder Scotty James contemplates an uncomfortable night after falling on the last jump
21:22 News of another flag bearer for tomorrow's Opening Ceremony. Germany has announced Maria Höfl-Riesch will have the honour of leading out Germany's 153-strong team. She was chosen ahead of a shortlist which also included speed skater Claudia Pechstein and biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle for the honour. Another biathlete, Andrea Henkel, had removed herself from the running due to the demands of travelling to the Opening Ceremony from the biathlon venue, located in the mountain cluster.
Höfl-Riesch won gold in both the slalom and super-combined events at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and is leading the 2013 World Cup standings. The 29-year-old German is hotly tipped to medal in all five events in which she is competing in Sochi.
The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) made the announcement shortly after Höfl-Riesch had completed her first training run for the Alpine event, placing sixth overall. "From the beginning, she was the favorite without controversy," said Germany's Chef de Mission Michael Vesper.
Plushenko wows home crowd
21:04 Russian Yevgeny Plushenko had the crowd inside the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi in the palm of his hand as he performed in the mixed team event. His score of 91.39 was enough for second place in the short programme, securing nine points for Russia. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu scored an impressive 97.98 to claim the maximum 10 points, with Canada's Patrick Chan in third. The pairs' short programme in the mixed team event will begin shortly.
Olympic Park sustainability
20:23 Wondering what's been done to make the Sochi Olympic Park sustainable? Take a look at our interactive clickable map to see how Dow Chemical has made it so.
Empty seats come back to haunt Olympics
19:56 As Evgeny Plushenko, one of Russia's best known sportsmen, comes out to skate in the mixed team event the overwhelming thing to catch your eye is the rows of empty blue seats in the Iceberg Skating Palace. With the ticketing controversy from London 2012 still fresh in the memory, this could be an early PR disaster for Sochi 2014 organisers to have to deal with.
US hockey players shocked as President Putin drops in on them
19:36 Russian President Vladimir Putin has surprised a group of United States female ice hockey players while they were having a coffee during a tour of the Olympic Village. "He came right up to us, introduced himself and said nice to meet you," team captain Meghan Duggan. "When we told him we played hockey, his eyes lit up."
FIFA President Blatter making his presence felt in Sochi
How the mixed team skating will work
19:00 Just like in the other skating events, each skater performs two routines - a short and a free programme, for a total of eight scores per country. First place receives 10 points, second place nine points, and so on down the line. Only the top five scoring teams will continue on to compete in the free skate.
The event is due to take place over three days with the men's and pairs short programmes. Russia, which only qualified one male skater in the men's event, 2006 Olympic gold medalist Evgeny Plushenko, will have to use him in both the short and free programmes of the team competition but have three teams each in the pairs and dance events.
The ladies' events, on Saturday and Sunday will include new American champion Gracie Gold, and Ashley Wagner, third in this season's Grand Prix Final, and newcomer Polina Edmunds. Japan has Mao Asada, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, new national champion Kanako Murakami and Akiko Suzuki.
"I'm just mad about that because I want to compete against him. I want to know who is better. It's just not as exciting to compete at the Olympics when you know the riders under the lights are not there."
- Canadian snowboarder Maxence Parrot on the controversial absence of American superstar Shaun White in the slopestyle qualifying competition
Mixed team skating set for Olympic debut
"Chumpy" Pullin given Australian flag honour for Opening Ceremony
Australian flag at the Opening Ceremony. Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman made the announcement at the in front of athletes, coaches, VIPs and media at Rosa Khutor Village, at the base of the mountain where Pullin will chase Olympic glory at Extreme Park.
Since finishing 17th on Olympic at Vancouver 2010, Pullin has won World Championship in 2011 and 2013 as well as overall World Cup titles in both years. Aerial skiing defending champion Lydia Lassila, who carried the Closing Ceremony flag at Vancouver 2010, presented the flag to Pullin for 2014.
Freestyle skiing - ladies' moguls
17:46 The moguls are always a great watch at the Olympics. Frantic and spectacular in equal measure. Qualification for the ladies' moguls gets underway at 6pm.
"Go @TorahBright! Aussie golden girl through to the Slopestyle final at #Sochi2014"
- The Australian Olympic Team celebrate Torah Bright's slopestyle success
Ladies' slopestyle qualifiers for final on Sunday
17:33 Eight women have made it straight through to the final of the ladies' slopestyle final on Sunday. In the first heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Switzerland's Isabel Derungs, Australia's Torah Bright, Canada's Spencer O'Brien and Finland's Enni Rukajarvi qualified after their two runs. Heat two saw Austria's Anna Gasser, America's Jamie Anderson, Switzerland's Elena Koenz and America's Karly Shorr all qualify. The remaining 15 riders enter a semifinal heat earlier on Sunday, where the top four will advance to the final.
Cool Runnings: The Sequel
17:10 The return of the Jamaican bobsleigh team to the Olympics after a 12-year absence is beginning to sound like they are auditioning for a role in Cool Runnings II. Having only qualified in the two-man event at the last moment and having had raise the funds to travel here, their luggage was then delayed en-route. It arrived here at midnight last night and they were able to today take to the ice for a training session but encountered a new problem.
Ladies' slopestyle qualifiers
16:31 Cheryl Maas of the Netherlands has a disappointing second run on the course. After she is scored by the judges, she holds one of her glove-covered hands up to the camera. On it are what appear to be coloured stripes similar to those on a rainbow. Was she making a point about Russia's anti-gay rights law?
Argentinian veteran loses appeal to be allowed to compete at Sochi 2014
16:22 Did you know that the Court of Arbitration are in Sochi to hear any legal disputes that may crop up during the Games? At the moment they have two heard two cases from athletes appealing against decisions not to allow them to compete here. The latest one involved Clyde Getty, a 52-year-old from Argentina who claims to be the oldest freestyle skier in the world. To read the story click here.
Skier chosen to carry Irish flag at Opening Ceremony
16:12 Ireland have announced that 21-year-old downhill skier Conor Lyne will be their flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony tomorrow. Lyne will represent Ireland in the slalom and grand slalom, which starts on Wednesday 19 February. Ireland have never won a Winter Olympic medal but came close in 2002 when Clifton Wrottesley finished fourth in the men's skeleton in Salt Lake City.
Ladies' slopestyle qualifiers
15:41 The second heat of the ladies' slopestyle qualifiers gets underway at 4pm. Eleven women, including four from the United States, will take to the course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The first heat, run earlier today, was topped by Switzerland's Isabel Derungs.
Russian Sports Minister confident of Sochi 2014 success after big investment in team
15:12 The Russian Government has invested 3 billion RR ($86 million) annually for seven years plus another 13 billion RR ($374 million) on sports infrastructure to prepare the home team for Sochi 2014, the country's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko revealed today. "We are absolutely convinced that the team is ready," he said.
After a poor performance at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, finishing 11th on the overall medals table, 11 international coaches were hired to train the Russian team. Training and competition venues were built for new winter Olympic sports, including snowboarding, bobsleigh and freestyle.
"We had a lot of problems and challenges when freestyle snowboard and other new disciplines were included," Mutko said. "We only had three training stadiums for some winter sports and athletes had to prepare abroad, in bobsleigh and biathlon for instance. Now we have managed to construct new venues."
"Attention sports fans! It is another Mark E Smith figure-skating in the Winter Olympics, not me. I have gout."
- Front man of post-punk band The Fall, Mark E Smith.
Coe praises "great atmosphere" in Sochi
14:21 Former London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe, here in his role as chairman of the British Olympic Association, carried the Olympic Torch this morning. "There's a great atmosphere out there," he said. "But I ran slightly slower than my last Olympic run 34 years ago." That was a reference to his victory in the 1500 metres at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the only other occasion on which the Games have been staged in Russia.
"Toothpaste bomb" terror warning
14:16 The United States Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning to both domestic and foreign airlines that toothpaste containers, or other similar cosmetic tubes, could be used to store the ingredients for a bomb to be assembled aboard Russian-bound aircraft.
But speaking this morning, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak guaranteed the safety of people at the Games, saying security concerns in Sochi are no worse than in New York, Washington or Boston. Click here for the full story.
Slopestyle qualifiers for final on Saturday
13:47 Eight men have already qualified for final of the snowboard slopestyle on Saturday with the remainder of the riders entering a semifinal heat earlier that day to determine the final four riders. In the first heat, Norway's Staale Sandbech, Canada's Sebastien Toutant, Finland's Peetu Piiroinen and Britain's Jamie Nicholls qualified for the men's final. In the second heat, Canada's Max Parrot led the way and will be joined in the final by Finland's Roope Tonteri, Sweden's Sven Thorgren and Norway's Gjermund Braaten.
Rules stop Swedish ice hockey player honouring Olympic gold medallist
13:33 Sweden women's ice hockey goaltender Valentina Wallner will not be allowed to wear a helmet with a picture honouring her late compatriot Stefan Liv, it has been revealed. Olympic men's team goaltender Liv, a member of the Swedish team that won the Olympic gold medal at Turin 2006, died in September 2011 in a plane crash that killed every member of his team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.
She had his picture painted on her helmet but has been told she will not be allowed to wear it in competition at Sochi 2014. "Some IOC rule says we can't have portraits on our helmets," Wallner told the Olympic News Service. "I knew it was not allowed to have a political message or something like that, but the portrait of a friend and an Olympic player - I think it's a ridiculous decision."
Sharapova revelling in home city hosting Winter Olympics
12:50 Four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has been turning heads in Sochi, where she used to live as a youngster. She is here representing several sponsors, including Nike at an event held near the courts in Riviera Park where she first played tennis.
"I always loved coming back, it was so special to me, it was full of nature. You have the Black Sea, and an hour away you have the mountains, with some of the best ski slopes in the world. So I always encouraged people to come here, from a very young age, but no one had ever heard of this city, so they thought I was quite crazy. But now here we are in this special time."
Bobsleigh star chosen to carry Russian flag at Opening Ceremony
12:21 Russia's veteran bobsleigh driver and top Sochi 2014 medal candidate Alexander Zubkov will carry the Russian flag at tomorrow's Opening Ceremony. The 39-year-old won a silver medal in the four-man bob at Turin 2006 and then bronze in the two-man at Vancouver 2010.
He had announced his retirement after Vancouver and even started a career in local politics in his native Siberia.But he returned to the ice in style winning gold in the two-man World Championships in 2011, Russia's first ever, and silver in the two man in 2013. "I am very satisfied and happy that I have been entrusted with such a proud mission," Zubkov said. "It is wonderful to know that the country is behind me."
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon addresses IOC Session
11:54 United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon today addressed the International Olympic Committee Session - an Olympic first. "Today I am in Sochi to witness countries uniting in a spirit of friendly competition and goodwill," he told delegates. It was the first time that a UN Secretary-General had attended an IOC Session.
Ban Ki-moon praised the joint efforts of the UN and the IOC to use sport as a tool for social change, describing the two organisations as teammates. "That team - the United Nations and the IOC - are not competing on the ski slopes or skating rinks," he said. "We are joining our forces together for our shared ideals. Sustainability. Universality. Solidarity. Non-discrimination. The fundamental equality of all people."
Morgan "stoked" by being first competitor at Sochi 2014
11.27 Britain's Billy Morgan has been talking about being the first athlete to compete at Sochi 2014 after finishing his run in the snowboard slopestyle. "I'm stoked," he said. He also praised the crowd at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. "It's absolutely awesome. I just got to the bottom and it's awesome. It's just qualifying and the stands here are half full. The Games havent even started yet."
Panasonic extend TOP sponsorship of Olympics
11:01 The International Olympic Committee have announced that they have reached an agreement with Panasonic to extend its Worldwide TOP Partnership through to 2024. Panasonic will continue as the Worldwide Olympic Partner within the exclusive audiovisual product category which includes: home entertainment equipment, including televisions; cameras; professional video equipment; professional displays, including large in-venue screens; professional audio equipment and video surveillance equipment.
Panasonic has been a Worldwide Olympic Partner since the IOC's global sponsorship programme began in 1985, and is the first Partner to sign to 2024. Panasonic first began its involvement with the Olympic Movement at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games as the supplier of the professional sound system and large video display for the main stadium.
United States flagbearer
10:45 Several teams are due to announce today who will carry their country's flag at tomorrow's Opening Ceremony. The United States have selected Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick , who will be making a record sixth appearance in the Winter Olympics having made his debut at Lillehammer 1994.
"Wave it high, and don't trip and fall."
- Six-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser on the advice she has received about being Canada's flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.
British flag carrier
10:02 Short track speed skater Jon Eley will carry Great Britain's flag at the Opening Ceremony tomorrow, it has just been announced here in Sochi. The selection was made by a panel that included Team GB Chef de Mission Mike Hay and Deputy Chef de Mission Sport Mahdi Choudhury, Team GB Ambassadors Amy Williams and Robin Cousins, as well as Olympic curling gold medallist Jackie Lockhart and BOA chief executive Bill Sweeney.
09:42 Britain's Billy Morgan will be the first athlete to start competition at Sochi 2014 when he drops into the slopestyle course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Morgan is first out in the qualification round of snowboard slopestyle, which is debuting at Sochi 2014. The event has received a lot of attention in the days leading up to the qualification rounds because of what athletes called a dangerous course and the decision by snowboard's biggest name, Shaun White to pull out of the event and focus on the halfpipe - an event he won at Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010.
Several snowboarders have been hurt during three days of training runs, and medal favourite, Norway's Torstein Horgmo, broke his collarbone on his first day on the course, ending his Olympic hopes.
Russian snowboarder Alexey Sobolve Swill be the first Russian to race on home soil in the slopestyle event, but he said he did not feel he had any special home field advantage. "It's ridiculous to set high expectations as I also have to train abroad where all the other guys come from," he said after a training run yesterday. "I'm exhausted after all those flights. I've been competing in Canada, training in Austria and I stopped over in Moscow within the last 10 days, so I'm pretty jet lagged."
What is slopestyle?
09:26 Slopestyle, which is making its Olympic debut at Sochi 2014 in both skiing and snowboarding forms, is an event where the goal is to perform the most difficult tricks while getting the highest amplitude off jumps, with an emphasis on performing different types of tricks instead of doing one great trick repeatedly. It originated as a snowboarding competition format. It has been one of the most popular events at the Winter X Games.
In the judged event of slopestyle, the athlete rides down a steep course and navigates a series of rails and other skate-park features followed by a series of three increasingly big jumps. Snowboarders will fly off the jumps and flip and twirl several times before landing and continuing on to the next jump.
"It's top secret. We know, but you'd have to tickle me to get it out of me."
- Figure skater Kaitlyn Weaver on who will represent Canada in the team event.
09:07 The first event today is the qualifying competition for the men's snowboard slopestyle at 10am, followed by the women's at 2pm. Also at 2pm is qualifying in the ladies moguls before attention switches from the mountains to the Olympic Park on the Black Sea where, at 3.30pm, the team event will start with the men's short programme.
09:00 Hello and welcome to insidethegames' exclusive daily update from the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The Opening Ceremony does not take place until tomorrow but this is the first day of competition with three sports starting, including two disciplines that will be making their Olympic debuts.