Winter Games open with a glitch but romp on through Russian history

Fri Feb 7, 2014 3:23pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White and Alissa de Carbonnel

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's Winter Games got off to a shaky start on Friday when one of the five Olympic rings failed to unfurl, but ballet dancers, stirring music and huge mechanical props tracing the host nation's history propelled the opening ceremony forward.

Only four of the five giant Olympic rings formed from snowflake-shaped structures suspended from the roof of the 40,000-capacity Fisht Stadium in Sochi, meaning the symbol could not be illuminated with fireworks as planned.

The showboat start to a Games that President Vladimir Putin hopes will burnish Russia's image on the world stage went on without further interruption, with cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who has spent more days in space than anyone, hoisting the Russian flag.

Putin officially opened the February 7-23 Games to a burst of fireworks that lit up the clear night sky outside the gleaming new stadium located on the shores of the Black Sea.

"I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games open," said Putin, launching an event he has personally championed.

Before the rings hiccup, a young girl in a white dress soared into the air, lifted by a harness, and sang as floating islands featuring folktale Russian landscapes drifted dreamlike across the stadium.

Cartoonish giant inflatable church domes and mascots were less well received, but the crowd saved some of its biggest cheers for the athletes as they emerged from beneath the stage.

In an innovative twist, huge satellite images of each nation taken from space were projected onto the floor as the teams entered.   Continued...

A scene from the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch