ALL THE NEWS, ACTION AND REACTION LIVE FROM SOCHI 2014 AS IT HAPPENS!
By Zjan Shirinian
Click refresh for latest updates. All times stated are Russian
LATEST: Ukraine to compete in Sochi (see 14:53, 14:49, 14:22 and our article here for more)
00:02 Well that seems as good a time as any to wrap things up for tonight. Thank you for your company today, and I hope you enjoyed our blog.
The sporting actions starts in earnest tomorrow morning. We have six gold medals to be won in the Alpine skiing programme - all in downhill. The first of these is scheduled for 10:00.
There are also six biathlon gold medals up for grabs, as well as four ice sledge hockey group games and eight wheelchair curling matches.
We will of course be here from 09:00 Sochi time, (that's 5am GMT), blogging from day one of the Sochi Paralympics.
Hope you can join us then. Goodnight.
Opening Ceremony in pictures
23:05 With a bit of time to reflect on the action in the Fisht Olympic Stadium, here's our story on the Opening Ceremony, and Ukraine's statement.
"Cannot put to words how unbelievable the #SochiParalympics opening ceremony was. Most amazing thing I've ever been part of. #CanadaProud"
- Canadian curler Mark Ideson on a stunning Opening Ceremony
Oslo 2022 set list of demands
22:24 Allow me to divert attention away from Sochi for a brief moment, to report on a development in the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Norwegian politicians want the International Olympic Committee to pay for their own accommodation at Oslo 2022, as part of a series of demands. Full story here.
22:20 We've been treated to quite some Opening Ceremony in Sochi, but Ukraine's statement during the athletes' parade - only their flagbearer took part - will perhaps be the main talking point.
22:12 And after a little less than two hours, that brings to an end a dramatic, colourful and captivating Opening Ceremony.
22:11 Fireworks and jets of water from the fountain below herald the lighting of the Paralympic cauldron.
22:10 As in the Olympics, the small cauldron is lit. The flames shoot towards the main cauldron and in a shower of flame and sparks, it is alight.
22:08 Sergey Shilov, six-times cross-country skiing Paralympic champion, is one of two heading out of the stadium to light the cauldron.
22:04 The Paralympic Flame has arrived in the stadium.
22:02 We're now watching a film charting the journey of the Paralympic Flame, and the history of the Paralympic Movement.
22:01 The Agitos, the symbol of the Paralympics, light up on the floor of the stadium in a dramatic conclusion to the segment.
21:59 The floor of the stadium now shows the word "together", as the ice breaker exits stage right.
21:53 Now that's an entrance. Soprano Maria Guleghina comes into the stadium aboard a huge ice breaker.
Ice falls off it to reveal the word "peace".
21:51 Chandeliers hang down from the roof as the music picks up and the characters dance along merrily.
21:49 A wedding feast is being set in the centre of the stadium as a choir sing.
All of those around the table depict a character from an Anton Chekhov play or story.
21:47 The Firebird is back in another video sequence. Will it play a part in the lighting of the cauldron?
21:45 Now the oaths are being taken.
21:42 The Paralympic anthem plays.
21:37 Russian President Vladimir Putin declares the Sochi 2014 Paralympics open.
The Paralympic flag is now entering the stadium.
21:32 IPC President Sir Philip Craven is now speaking. He opens his remarks in Russian. He knows how to get a crowd warmed up.
"The biggest transformation for this country is yet to come," he says.
"I call upon all those in these Games to have barrier-free minds."
He adds sport "must be the winner" of the Winter Paralympics.
21:30 Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi Organising Committee, says the Games will provide a lasting legacy for Russia and the world.
21:24 Singer Yulia Samoylova is joined by dancers in an enchanting segment of the show.
"That feeling you get after you've sat down at the opening ceremony, when you realise you're here and this is happening. #Sochi2014 #unreal."
- Brad Bowden, assistant captain of the Canadian sledge hockey team.
21:16 The performances now continue as the athletes' parade concludes.
21:14 Russia have the second biggest team at these Games. They were second in the medals table in Vancouver 2010, but won the total medals count.
21:12 An unsurprisingly big roar from the crowd as Russia appear. Vladimir Putin is on his feet, as the athletes wave their flags with pride.
21:11 Switzerland, Sweden and Japan lead up to the big moment.
21:08 Well, I take that back. Ukraine's athletes are in the Fisht Olympic Stadium, but they did not take part in the parade. They are now seated with the other athletes.
21:05 Huge cheers for Ukraine - with only flagbearer Mykailo Tkachenko appearing. The Nordic skier does not acknowledge the applause, but the cheers are continuous. It seems the rest of his team-mates have chosen to make a statement by staying away from the stadium.
21:04 Turkey, Uzbekistan and then Ukraine.
21:03 The United States arrive, and nothing but cheers from what I can tell. Their flagbearer is Alpine skier Jonathan Lujan, who leads out the biggest contingent at these Games.
21:02 Five countries until Ukraine arrive.
21:00 The hosts in 2018, Korea, are next up in the athletes' parade.
20:59 Norway, the most successful Winter Paralympic nation, are followed by Poland.
20:56 Just over 10 countries to walk out before we get to Ukraine, whose National Paralympic Committee President said will have a "restricted form of participation" in the parade.
20:55 China's turn now, and Mexico follow.
20:53 Kazakhstan, who have high hopes of hosting the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Almaty in 2022, up next, followed by Canada.
20:52 Big hand for Italy. Is it too early to get up and dance? Some funky music playing.
20:49 Greece, first out in the Summer version, are 12th out here. Denmark and then Iran follow.
20:48 Great Britain led out by 15-year-old Alpine skier Millie Knight, followed by a sizeable contingent from Germany. IOC President Thomas Bach is on his feet to welcome them.
20:47 Winter Paralympic debutants Brazil enter the stadium.
20:44 Big cheers for Belarus too as some lively music plays in the Fisht Olympic Stadium.
20:43 Argentina next out, followed by ex-Soviet nation Armenia, whose single athlete gets the biggest cheer so far.
20:40 The athletes' parade has begun. Australia first out led by the injured skier Cameron Rahles-Rahbula who walks out on crutches. He injured himself earlier in the week during a training run and has pulled out of one of the two events he had hoped to compete it. Scoll down to 15:54 for more on that and the criticism the course at the Alpine Centre has come under.
20:38 That last blog post sounds a bit odd, on reflection. Anyway, the Firebird is back as it continues its journey across Russia in another animated sequence.
20:37 Dramatic music is playing as men inside giant balls encircle the ballerinas.
20:32 Lots of running around as the 504 ballerinas, including one as young as six, form a giant star.
20:27 Music courtesy of wine glasses now - most of us have tried and failed to make a reasonable sound doing this at one time or another.
Ballerinas take to the stadium to join in.
20:23 The Russian flag is brought into the stadium by eight specially selected individuals.
And now it's time for the national anthem. The choir - and there's a lot of them - are in fine voice.
United in celebration
20:20 A great image - two spectators at the Opening Ceremony wave a Russian and Ukrainian flag together
20:18 A group of men and women clad in red, white and blue form the Russian flag. They gently sway to make it look like a wave.
20:16 IPC President Sir Philip Craven and Russian President Vladimir Putin both warmly welcomed by the crowd as they enter the stadium.
20:15 And there are the first fireworks of the night - maybe a tad earlier than expected?
20:15 The Firebird - a magical bird of fire from faraway overseas nations - has made its first appearance in a video sequence. It will symbolically link all the chapters of the show, say organisers.
20:14 The Opening Ceremony is underway - let's get this show on the road.
20:09 All the headlines have been about Russia in the last few days, all for the wrong reasons. The timing of its intervention in Crimea couldn't have been worse for Paralympic organisers. But all the athletes are in Sochi, even if some dignitaries are staying away, and the Games are about to begin.
19:59 As has become something of an Olympic and Paralympic tradition, the Opening Ceremony will start at 20:14. 2014, get it?
19:52 Almost time for the show to begin. We're banking on fireworks, lots and lots of fireworks.
Sir Philip and Putin
19:46 Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), and Russian President Vladimir Putin have spoken to the IPC Governing Board ahead of the Opening Ceremony.
Ukraine and the athletes' parade
19:40 Ukraine's National Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Suskevich said earlier his athletes would have a "restricted form of participation" in the athletes' parade. They're the 35th nation out.
19:22 Right, some quick housekeeping.
If you missed the news earlier, Ukraine will compete at the Sochi Paralympics. Scroll down to 14:53, 14:49 and 14:22 for more.
An American ice sledge hockey player got himself locked inside a bathroom in Sochi. Scroll down to 16:58 to find out how "Operation Save Steve" went.
Forty-five countries are taking part in the Games, and will walk out into the Fisht Olympic Stadium during the athletes' parade. Australia are first out and Russia, as hosts, last. Debutants Brazil are ninth out, Great Britain will be right behind them. Canada will be 19th, China 20th, United States 32nd, and Ukraine 35th. The full order, and list of flagbearers, is at 13:55.
Relight my fire
19:02 Here are some Torch Relay stats for your Paralympic perusal:
14 The youngest Torchbearer, aged 14, was Sergei Denisov of Sochi, a sportsman who has a rare genetic disease
88 The oldest Torchbearer, aged 88, was Vitaly Ivanov of Chekhov, a World War Two veteran who was awarded five Orders of the Red Star and two Orders of Glory.
605 People with an impairment took part in the Relay - more than 35 per cent of the total.
The finale of the Sochi 2014 Torch Relay will be its arrival at the Olympic Park tonight, where the cauldron will be lit at the end of the Opening Ceremony.
"Headed to opening ceremonies! I don't have the same credentials as everyone else."
- United States flagbearer Jon Lujan will be holding his nation's stars and stripes aloft in the Fisht Olympic Stadium later.
18:40 Barely 90 minutes to go now until the Opening Ceremony begins. Scroll down to 14:10 for a glimpse at what to expect.
The three Agitos
18:19 Ever wondered what the meaning is behind the Paralympic symbol, the three Agitos? Here's how the International Paralympic Committee explain it:
"It consists of three elements in red, blue and green – the three colours that are most widely represented in national flags around the world.
"The three Agitos (from the Latin meaning "I move") encircling a central point symbolize motion, emphasise the role of the Paralympic Movement in bringing athletes together from all corners of the world to compete.
"The symbol also reflects the Paralympic Motto, "Spirit in Motion," representing the strong will of every Paralympian.
"The Paralympic Symbol also emphasises the fact that Paralympic athletes are constantly inspiring and exciting the world with their performances: always moving forward and never giving up."
The symbol was launched at the Closing Ceremony of the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
18:06 The access in and around the Paralympic village has come in for some praise today. International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven said: "We've got great venues, great accessibility in the new park. Big, big improvements in the city, in Sochi."
A Russian Accessibility Map has been created by the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee. Its aim is to show people with an impairment accessible areas that include ramps, non-slip coating and more at sports facilities. Sochi was the first city named on the new map.
"The plan and the commitment to the Russian government is for this to be spread out over time in legacy format to each of the 80 regions in Russia and that's a fantastic dream of ours to be able to influence and transform the biggest nation in the world," added Sir Philip.
French Ministers to stay away from Sochi
17:40 France's Foreign Minister has said it would be "very inappropriate" for any of his colleagues to attend the Sochi Paralympics.
Full story here.
Winter Paralympic debuts
17:19 Brazil, Turkey and Kazakhstan are all making their Paralympic Winter Games debuts in Sochi, joining 42 other countries.
Snowboarding is also making its Paralympic debut, and its events will be among the 72 golds up for grabs over the next nine days.
"Very excited to walk into Fisht Stadium tonight with all the Canadian athletes"
- Canadian ice sledge hockey player Tyler McGregor
Locked in a bathroom, take two
16:58 United states ice sledge hockey goalie Steve Cash has entered the "stuck in a Sochi bathroom" hall of fame.
Following in the footsteps of countryman bobsledder Johnny Quinn who got locked in during the Olympics, Cash found himself stuck in a hotel bathroom.
He tweeted: "Locked in the bathroom as we speak. No food in sight... Where is Wilson when you need him? #castaway #bathroombreak."
His team-mates were quickly on the scene in a bid to free him from his predicament.
Taylor Lipsett helped initiate "Operation Save Steve". And, to everyone's relief, he was able to walk free. Phew.
Australia set for Sochi success
16:33 Australia's Minister for Sport, Peter Dutton, has said he is confident the team will "do us proud" over the next nine days in Sochi.
The athletes, made up of six alpine skiers, two sighted guides and three snowboarders, will be looking to add to their country's impressive all-time Paralympic medal haul of 11 gold, six silver and 11 bronze.
The Minister responsible for disability, Senator Mitch Fifield, has also sent his best wishes to the Paralympians.
"The elite athletes who will compete at the Paralympic Winter Games are truly inspiring and I wish them all the very best as they strive to realise their athletic ambitions in Sochi," he said.
"Alpine skiers Mitchell Gourley and Melissa Perrine are among Australia's strong medal hopes, and like all Australians, I hope Cameron Rahles-Rahbula, will be able to compete in his fourth Paralympic Games following his training accident in Sochi yesterday."
See 15:54 for more on Cameron's accident.
16:12 More than 55 countries and territories will broadcast action from the Paralympics, and with many countries televising more hours than ever before, the International Paralympic Committee is confident the Games will break viewing records.
Ski course comes in for criticism
15:54 Conditions at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre have come in for criticism, with some skiers labelling it dangerous.
On Wednesday, Australian Cameron Rahles-Rahbula crashed on the steepest section of the course. He has had to withdraw from the downhill because of a small fracture at the top of his tibia near the knee. He hopes to still be able to compete in the Super-G
Meanwhile, former British soldier Mick Brennan has said he will not not compete in the downhill because conditions are "scary".
The International Parlamypic Committee has insisted the course is safe.
15:33 It probably won't surprise anyone to know that Norway, like their Olympic friends, lead the all-time Paralympic medals table, with 134 golds. Germany are second with 121 golds and Austria third with 102. The United States lie in fourth with 95.
But all that said, Norway were down in 12th four years ago in Vancouver with one gold. Germany, Russia and Canada made up the top three in the medals table.
If Germany match their haul of 13 golds without a reply from Norway in Sochi, the all-time medals table would be a tie, so far as golds are concerned.
How's that for number-crunching?
Paralympic Flame heading for home
15:15 The Paralympic Torch Relay was run in the Central District of Sochi yesterday, and then returned to the Mountain Cluster..
Konstantin Ernst - a Russian TV personality, producer and CEO of Channel One - started the city stage of the relay. A further 114 people ran with the Torch.
Today's final stage of the Relay will see the Torch carried through the main streets of Sochi and the Olympic Park, located in the Coastal Cluster. The Relay ends at the Fisht Stadium, where the final Torchbearer will light the main Cauldron.
"6 hours to go team! #SOCHI2014 Paralympic Games and Team Canada will be entering the stadium 54 strong! GO TEAM GO!"
- Canada's Opening Ceremony flagbearer, curler Sonja Gaudet, is excited for her team's big moment.
Ukraine to compete in Sochi
14:53 Suskevich says an "escalation of military conflict or intervention" into Ukraine would see his team leave Sochi.
14:49 International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven has praised Ukraine's decision to compete in Sochi.
"We are delighted by Ukraine's decision as we want sport to prevail and a full complement of teams to compete in what we are confident will be a fantastic Paralympic Winter Games," he said.
"All week the IPC has been working closely with the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee in an effort to keep them here in Sochi.
"The talking point of Sochi 2014 needs to be great sport and great athletes, not global politics.
"We want all the athletes who have trained for years to reach these Games to fully focus on events on the field as opposed to off.
"Now that a decision has been taken I hope this will be the case and the athletes and the sport will take centre stage and the headlines they deserve."
"Good decision by the Ukraine to compete at Sochi Paralympics. I enjoy the rare occasions where sport prevails over politics, hope it lasts."
- Cycling instructor Kyle Tunstall on Ukraine's decision to compete in Sochi.
14:22 BREAKING NEWS: Ukraine will compete at the Winter Paralympics,
The country's National Paralympic Committee President Valeriy Suskevich tells a news conference he wants to focus on sport and the athletes, raising their flag for "peace".
Suskevich says he met Russian President Vladimir Putin last night, and spoke with him for half an hour, asking him to ensure "significant" steps are made to support the rights of human beings and athletes for peace in "one's home country".
He adds the Ukrainian delegation is staying in Sochi to be remembered as a country which sent a unified team.
What awaits in the Opening Ceremony?
14:10 So what can we expect from Sochi's Opening Ceremony? Well, a soprano and an accordion virtuoso for starters.
The ceremony is called "Breaking the Ice", honouring the strength of the human spirit. It also explains how important it is to change the perceptions and promote inclusiveness in society, we're told. The ceremony's theme will be "Together",
One of the central characters is the Firebird - a magical bird of fire from faraway overseas nations. Its image, which symbolically links all chapters of the show and can express the spirit of Russia, was created especially for the Opening Ceremony by Russian animator and Oscar winner Alexander Petrov.
Organisers say the show's storyline reflects the positive changes in attitude toward people with an impairment and their full inclusion into modern Russian society.
Opening Ceremony flagbearers
13:55 And on that note, here are the names of all 45 flagbearers due to lead their teams into the Fisht Olympic Stadium later today in the Opening Ceremony, in the order they will walk out:
Australia: Cameron Rahles-Rahbula (alpine skiing)
Austria: Philipp Bonadimann (alpine skiing)
Andorra: Xavier Fernandez (alpine skiing)
Argentina: Pablo Javier Robledo (Nordic skiing)
Armenia: Mher Avanesyan (alpine skiing)
Belarus: Yadviha Skorabahataya (Nordic skiing)
Belgium: Denis Colle (snowboard)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ilma Kazazic (alpine skiing)
Brazil: Andre Pereira (snowboard)
Great Britain: Millie Knight (alpine skiing)
Germany: Andrea Rothfuss (alpine skiing)
Greece: Efthymios Kalaras (alpine skiing)
Denmark: Ulrik Nyvold (alpine skiing)
Iran: Sadegh Kalhor (alpine skiing)
Iceland: Erna Fridriksdottir (alpine skiing)
Spain: Jon Santacana Maiztegui (alpine skiing)
Italy: Andrea Chiarotti (ice sledge hockey)
Kazakhstan: Yerlan Omaraov (Nordic skiing)
Canada: Sonja Gaudet (wheelchair curling)
China: Ye Tian (Nordic skiing)
Mexico: Arly Velasquez (alpine skiing)
Mongolia: Ganbold Batmunhk (Nordic skiing)
Netherlands: Bibian Mentel-Spee (snowboard)
New Zealand: Adam Hall (alpine skiing)
Norway: Mariann Marthinsen (Nordic skiing)
Poland: Maciej Krezel (alpine skiing)
South Korea: Seung-Hwan Jung (ice sledge hockey)
Romania: Laura Valenau (alpine skiing)
Serbia: Jugoslav Milosevic (alpine skiing)
Slovakia: Jakub Krako (alpine skiing)
Slovenia: Gal Jakic (alpine skiing)
USA: Jonathan Lujan (alpine skiing)
Turkey: Mehmet Cekic (alpine skiing)
Uzbekistan: Ramil Gayazov (alpine skiing)
Ukraine: Mykailo Tkachenko (Nordic skiing)
Finland: Katja Saarinen (alpine skiing)
France: Vincent Gauthier-Manuel (alpine skiing)
Croatia: Dino Sokolovic (alpine skiing)
Czech Republic: Stanislav Loska (alpine skiing)
Chile: Jorge Migueles (alpine skiing)
Switzerland: Christoph Kunz (alpine skiing)
Sweden: Jalle Jungnell (whleelchair curling)
Japan: Shoko Ota (Nordic skiing)
Russia: Valerii Redkozubov (alpine skiing)
13:43 There remains the threat of the Ukrainian team pulling out of the Paralympics, even at this late hour.
But they have announced their flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony as Nordic skier Mykailo Tkachenko, which may indicate their intention to stay in Sochi,
13:37 There has been plenty of talk of boycotts and dignitaries staying away from Sochi since Russian troops entered Crimea in Ukraine last week.
Prince Edward is staying away, the United States will not be sending a delegation to Sochi, and a number of European royals and International Paralympic Committee Honorary Board members have also cancelled trips to the Games.
You knew you couldn't keep us away
13:30 Yes, we're back.
Good morning/afternoon/evening and welcome to our Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games live blog. After 17 days of action last month during the Olympics, we've cleared the cobwebs and dusted the keyboard for another 10 days of sporting action.
We'll of course have all the sporting news for you, as well as what is going on behind the cameras.