February 08, 2014 08:43
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi kicked off Friday with a glitzy opening ceremony that organizers hoped would paint a shining image of post-Soviet Russia.
Brand new Fisht Olympic Stadium, which holds 40,000 people, hosted the ceremony, which featured Russian music, ballet stars, acrobats and cosmonauts.
Athletes from the more than 80 nations competing in Sochi filled the stadium. The lighting of the Olympic torch and fireworks lit the night sky to culminate the event.
More than 40 leaders from around the world were also in attendance, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. U.S. President Barack Obama and some European Union leaders are absent. Russia has faced criticism of its law banning the spread of so-called "gay propaganda" to minors.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach was also there, along with fans from all over the world.
Security remained tight Friday in and around the Olympic village, with authorities on guard for possible terrorist attacks.
However, Bach said Friday it is unfair to single out the Sochi Games as facing a particular security threat. He said terrorist threats were made at other Olympics, including Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, and Salt Lake City in 2002.
Security was also bolstered around the Kremlin in anticipation of possible protests related to the Sochi Olympics.
Bach also said preparations for the Games are going "pretty smoothly," but that the first few days of the games usually have "a small hiccup here or there." He did not say what those problems might be.
Qualifying rounds began Thursday in sports including the team figure skating competition, a new team gold medal event at the Winter Olympics. The official 16-day competition period begins on Saturday, when gold medals in five sports will be contested.
Russian authorities have spent an estimated $2 billion to shore up security in advance of the Sochi Olympics. Islamic militants have threatened attacks, and analysts have singled out train stations and other areas where civilians congregate as possible targets.
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