Winter Olympics 2014 opening ceremony: Let the Sochi Games begin... Vladimir Putin opens the Games but not before a lighting malfunction and performance from t.A.T.u

Sochi Games under way with spectacular display

The opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics was broadcast to more than 200 countries providing the perfect opportunity for Russia to put on a display - however not everything went to plan.

For some, these ceremonies border on the tedious rather than the inspiring, but they always tend to provide a few talking points.

In Beijing it was the incredibly acute choreography, in London the celebration of the NHS, in LA a jetpack. So what will it be in Sochi?

Opening ceremony at a glance...

  • Jon Eley carries the flag for Team GB
  • Cauldron lit by figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak
  • Ceremony started at 16:14 GMT
  • Embarrassment as Olympic rings malfunction
  • Teams enter the stadium
  • Putin declares Games officially open

The ceremony started with an 'A to Z' video of all Russia's contributions to the world before cutting to the opening ceremony staple, a cute (if rather fearful looking) little girl who began to then float around the stadium.

Next up was a reminder of Russia's diverse landscapes, a depiction aided by pretend horses, reindeer and a dog (perhaps a stuffed one from the many that were culled in Sochi before the Games).

However, the start of the ceremony did not all go to plan.

While many were expecting a bit of a dog-eared Winter Olympics given the widely-reported problems during the preparation stages, few could have predicted that it would have been the Olympic rings themselves, hoisted high in the stadium during the opening ceremony, that would be the thing to malfunction.

Five snowflakes were supposed to transform into five interlocking rings during the event, but number five (the red one) appeared to get stuck, serving as an unintentional slight to the nations it is generally considered to represent (Japan and China).

Photos of four fifths of the Olympics symbol, rather predictably, soon spread on social media.

rings.JPG

The show went on with no further interruptions, and cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who has spent more days in space than anyone, hoisted the Russian flag as performers dressed in glowing red, blue and white lights formed a living flag.

Athletes emerged from beneath the stage up a ramp for the traditional parade, and a giant satellite image of each nation taken from space was projected onto the floor.

The crowd cheered them around the track, and light boxes on seats in the stands created a dazzling visual backdrop.

The teams entered the stadium in alphabetical order, but not before Greece as is traditional. Among the highlights were the knitwear worn by the United States' athletes and the colourful outfits sported by Germany. Sweden meanwhile wore designs from highstreet store H&M.

Also among those entering the stadium was Vanessa Mae, the violinist competing for Thailand. Jon Eley led out Team GB who come to these Games with expectations higher than ever. A target of three-to-seven medals has been set.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi Olympics, was the first to make a speech.

"Welcome to the 2014 Olympics Winter Games in Sochi," he said. "Our city is unique, as all of Russia is unique.

"It is the largest country in the world where Europe meets Russia. We are proud to have the privilege to host the entire world."

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said: "Welcome to the 22nd Winter Olympic Games. Tonight we are writing a new page in Olympic history. What took decades in other parts of the world has been achieved here in just seven years. This is a remarkable achievement.

"Thousands of volunteers have welcomed us with the well known warm Russian hospitality. Many thanks to all of them.

"Russia and the Russians have set the stage for you, the best winter athletes on the planet. From this moment on, you're not only the best, you are Olympic athletes. You will inspire us with your outstanding performances."

It was then left to Vladimir Putin to officially open the Games.

For those fearing a show of propaganda from the Russian president, there was relief. "The Olympic Charter is very clear. The President can say only one sentence," Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC explained in reference to the standard line used by heads of state to open the Games, which is: "I hereby declare open the Games of the Olympiad." Considering Putin has pumped around £31bn to put on this show, he might have felt a little short changed. However, he did look mightily proud.

Tennis player Maria Sharapova was given the honour of carrying the Olympic Flame into the stadium. Eventually it came to figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak who lit the cauldron together.

All that was left was for the customary fireworks to go off.

Before the ceremony in Sochi, there was controversy - sort of.

t.A.T.u, the female duo who caused worldwide controversy with their video for All The Things She Said back in 2002, were among the more surprising choices to help with today's warm-up for the opening ceremony. Lena and Julia, who appeared in school uniforms embracing in their music video also regularly kissed on stage. So shocking were their antics, ITV show CD:UK banned the video. While hardly Pussy Riot, considering Russia has come under heavy scrutiny for their laws on homosexual 'propaganda', the duo were an interesting selection.

Among the dignitaries attending the opening ceremony were Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Chinese counterpart. And then there was Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, who announced today he'll be at the Olympics despite it being held in the country that invaded his own in 1979.

However, more focus has been placed on those not going. Among them was Prime Minister David Cameron. Perhaps that was due to the lack of selfie opportunities as Barack Obama was not attending either. There was also no Francois Hollande or Angela Merkel.

 

Not every athlete was taking part either, with many of those in action on Saturday, including the women's ice hockey teams from Finland and the United States, opting to stay away. With the expectation that athletes would have to stand around for about five hours made the decision understandable.

Today's ceremony inside the 40,000 capacity Fisht Stadium was an opportunity for Russia to show a different, more vibrant side to the rest of the world for the first time since Soviet Moscow hosted the Summer Games in 1980.

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