Sochi opening ceremony: from Peter the Great to Putin

2. Mascots

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    Members of Switzerland's Olympic team pose with the Olympic mascots after a welcome ceremony at the Mountain Olympic Village.
    Jae C. Hong / AP
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Meet your Sochi Olympic mascots: the Polar Bear, the Hare, and the Leopard. The trio was selected in a national online poll from 24,000 submissions and has its own virtual home on the official Sochi Games website. All three animals love winter sports, their official biographies say, though they have their own proclivities: skiing for the Bear, snowboarding for the Leopard, and ice skating for the Hare.

Of the three, the Leopard is portrayed as the neighborhood kid in the southern city of Sochi, residing in “the highest peak of the snowy mountains in the Caucasus,” according to the Games' website. He’s also the personal choice of President Vladimir Putin, who praised him as “strong, powerful, fast and beautiful” – but also worryingly endangered. Coincidentally, Putin toured a local leopard sanctuary on the eve of the Games, cuddling with the Leopard’s real-life cousin. 

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