Russian Winter Games open amid security scares, arrests

Fri Feb 7, 2014 6:08pm EST
 
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By Mike Collett-White

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's Winter Olympics got underway on Friday with a grandiose opening ceremony watched by President Vladimir Putin, who will be keen to calm fears of militant attacks and move on from a row over gay rights that has marred the buildup to the Games.

Putin has staked his reputation on hosting a safe and successful Olympics in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, where a colorful show before 40,000 spectators at the gleaming new Fisht Stadium signaled the start of full sporting competition.

"I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games open," said Putin, launching an event he has personally overseen and expects will burnish Russia's, and his own, image on the world stage.

In an embarrassing technical glitch, one of the five Olympic rings suspended high above the stage failed to unfurl, meaning that the giant structure could not be illuminated by fireworks as planned.

The show's creative director, television executive Konstantin Ernst, played down its significance.

"No normal person would get distracted by one snowflake that did not open from the story that is being told over two and half hours," he told reporters.

The show went on, blending cartoon-style inflatable domes, ballroom dancing amid towering imperial columns, and giant avant-garde shapes hovering above symbols of revolution and upheaval in a spectacular sweep through Russian history.

Fireworks filled the sky above the Olympic Park surrounding the arena in a rousing finale to a show that drew heavily on Russia's rich heritage of classical music, literature and dance.   Continued...

 
Performers participate in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble