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Behind the scenes for athletes at Opening Ceremony (video)

Vancouver Opening Ceremony

US’ delegation led by flagbearer, luger Mark Grimmette, enters the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at BC place venue on February 12, 2010 in Vancouver. AFP PHOTO/POOL (Photo credit should read JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

The Opening Ceremony is the highlight of the Olympics for many, many athletes.

The event, which can last a few hours, is even longer for Olympians than many viewers realize. The above video shows U.S. Olympians en route to the 2010 Opening Ceremony in Vancouver, where they had to wait out of sight until the U.S. was called in for the Parade of Nations, which is done alphabetically by country name.

“You spend so much time working on yourself,” aerials skier Emily Cook said. “That’s your opportunity to share it with the world, to share it with your friends and family and everyone who supported you along the way.”

The 2014 Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony will be Friday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. (11 a.m. ET) at Fisht Stadium, which will also host medal ceremonies and the Closing Ceremony but not actual competitions. This is much like 2010, when Vancouver used BC Place for the same functions.

Olympic Winter Games used to have primarily outdoor Opening Ceremonies, like the Summer Games. But the movement toward larger cities hosting the Winter Games coincided with sports being added, more countries participating, more athletes overall, bigger crowds and larger arenas fit for these occasions.

Some details about the Sochi Opening Ceremony have already been reported.

More than 2,000 performers are expected to take part, including circus and dance students, It will take viewers through Russian history in culture, nature and science, according to a Russian report.

The diversity and size of Russia will be represented by a variety of famous historical figures, such as Tsar Peter the Great, and natural landmarks, including Mount Elbrus in the North Caucasus, the White Sea in the Arctic, the Ural Mountains and Lake Baikal. Iconic Russian avant-garde architecture and art will also play a role.

It remains to be seen what special surprises the Sochi Opening Ceremony could have in store. The big question going in is always who will light the Olympic Cauldron, but the athletes’ lasting memories are about everything that happens leading up to that climactic moment.

“It’s a privilege and it’s an honor to be part of something bigger than ourselves, be part of a team,” snowboarder Kelly Clark said.

Video: NBC Olympics 100 days out spots

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