SOCHI SCENE: Rings over Russia

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The grandeur of Olympic Park is obvious in its celebration of the Winter Olympics — from the circle of flags surrounding Medals Plaza near the Olympic flame to the iconic rings everywhere, including the facade of Bolshoy Ice Dome and the button of each curling house.

Less apparent beyond signs and individual conversations in the host tongue is the environment of Russia, which, in contrast, is presented more subtly around the park. Even central stage performances by "the best music and dance groups from the whole of Russia," as organizer bill it, aren't blared over loudspeakers to the rest of the park. Instead, it's a Western pop-heavy rotation of songs like Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory."

But visitors sporting gear representing Russia and other countries are naturally crowding around attractions that are more Russian, including a dance crew breaking to Russian beats and a song and dance troupe singing folk songs in traditional outfits.

As a troupe performed Tuesday in front of a casual crowd, two Asian journalists smiled while shooting video. Nearby, a Russian mother ran after her daughter, who carried a green balloon while making a beeline for the stage. Others took frequent photos with phones and tablets.

It's enriching, yet informal — and the culmination of a process organizers say took four years and involved all 83 regions of Russia, narrowing down to the country's top professional acts and 50 more finalists picked by a jury to perform.

The result? About 5,000 performers during the Olympics and Paralympics. The vast majority are professionals who have performed in Russia and abroad, says Anna Pisarskaya, head of culture for the Sochi organizers.

— By Oskar Garcia — Twitter

Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter:

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