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Sochi Olympics kick off with grand opening

Feb 08 2014, 00:57 IST
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Music, dance and plenty of Russian bravado unleashed the ultimate achievement of Vladimir Putin's Russia on Thursday. Reuters Music, dance and plenty of Russian bravado unleashed the ultimate achievement of Vladimir Putin's Russia on Thursday. Reuters
SummaryMusic, dance and plenty of Russian bravado unleashed the ultimate achievement of Vladimir Putin's Russia on Thursday...

Music, dance and plenty of Russian bravado unleashed the ultimate achievement of Vladimir Putin's Russia on Thursday - a Winter Olympics to showcase the best athletes on ice and snow that the world has to offer.

The opening ceremony on the edge of the Black Sea and subsequent games are Russia's chance to tell its story of post-Soviet resurrection to the world, and dispel the anger, fear and suspicion that has marred the buildup to these most expensive Olympics ever.

Just after the sun set over the Caucasus Mountains and along the seashore just outside Fisht Stadium in the wet-paint-fresh Olympic Park, Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to a pre-show crowd still taking their seats: ''Welcome to the center of the universe!''

Soon to come are the athletes, in the traditional parade of nations that marks every opening ceremony. Some 3,000 will compete in 98 events, more people and events than ever at the Winter Games.

The ceremony is crafted as a celebration of Russia and is presenting Putin's version: a country with a rich and complex history emerging confidently from a rocky two decades and now capable of putting on a major international sports event.

And it didn't take long for that classic Russian pride in their nation to come shinning through.

As Churikova rallied the crowd to scream ''louder than ever,'' she told the 40,000 fans in their cool blue seats their keepsakes from the night would last 1,000 years. When explaining the show would be hosted in English, French and Russian, she joked that it didn't matter, because in Sochi, everyone ''speaks every language in the world.''

Not on the set list: Putin's repression of dissent, fears of terrorism and inconsistent security measures at the Olympics, which will take place just a few hundred miles (kilometers) away from the sites of an insurgency and routine militant violence. Also looked over: the tensions with the United States over neighboring Ukraine, NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Syria.

And the unpaid migrant workers who helped build up the Sochi site from scratch, the disregard for local residents, the environmental abuse during construction, the pressure on activists, and the huge amounts of Sochi construction money that disappeared to corruption.

The show cleared its first chance to focus on one of those issues without so much as a wink, as Russian singers Tatu performed ''Not Gonna Get Us'' - steering clear of the

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