Fairy tale opening ceremony for Sochi Winter Olympics

Photos from Opening Ceremony of Sochi Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium
Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on Feb. 7.
Credit: Getty Images

Russia’s Winter Olympics officially got underway on the Black Sea coast Friday with a grandiose opening ceremony that President Vladimir Putin hoped would dispel fears of militant attacks and a row over gay rights that marred the buildup.

Putin has staked his reputation on hosting a safe and successful Games in the resort town of Sochi, where a colorful, sometimes muddled show before 40,000 spectators at the gleaming 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 early 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.

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

As the ceremony unfolded, a security scare aboard a passenger plane flying from Ukraine to Turkey underlined concerns that the Games could be targeted, although the exact circumstances were not immediately clear.

Turkey scrambled an F-16 fighter jet to accompany a plane carrying 110 passengers arriving in Istanbul after a bomb threat was made by a passenger demanding to go to the Winter Olympics venue of Sochi, Turkish officials said.

The passenger was believed to have drunk alcohol and was calmed down by the crew and persuaded to let the plane land in Istanbul, according to Dogan news agency.

The scare came after the U.S. Transportation Security Administration had temporarily banned carry-on liquids, aerosols, gels and powders on flights between Russia and the United States.

Federal officials issued a warning on Wednesday to airports and some airlines flying to Russia for the Olympics to watch for toothpaste tubes that could hold ingredients to make a bomb onboard a plane.

“Ring of steel”

Some 37,000 security personnel are on high alert in Sochi over threats by Islamist militant groups based in the nearby north Caucasus region to attack the Feb. 7-23 Games, the most expensive ever staged at an estimated cost of $50 billion.

Separatist guerrillas seeking an independent Islamic state in Chechnya and neighboring regions of southern Russia have vowed to disrupt the Olympics, which they say are taking place on land seized from Caucasus tribes in the 19th century.

Despite a “ring of steel” around venues, Russian forces fear a woman suspected of planning a suicide bombing may have slipped through.

Security analysts believe that an attack is in fact more likely elsewhere in Russia to humiliate Putin, who launched a war to crush a Chechen rebellion in 1999.

Twin suicide bombings killed at least 34 people in December in Volgograd, 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

“Gay propaganda” row

Putin was joined at the ceremony by leaders from China, Japan and about 40 other countries in a show of support despite international anger over Russia’s “gay propaganda” law passed last year, which critics say curtails the rights of homosexuals.

President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck are not attending the Games, and the U.S. delegation includes openly gay representatives.

Putin says legislation banning the promotion of gay propaganda among minors is designed to protect young people, and has stressed that homosexuals would not face discrimination at the Olympics.

In a speech at the opening ceremony, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach called for an inclusive Games.

“Yes, it is possible — even as competitors — to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason,” he said beneath a fluttering Russian flag.

As he spoke, gay rights activists said Russian police had detained activists who tried to protest on Moscow’s Red Square and in St Petersburg.

Police did not immediately comment on the reports by the activists, who said 10 protesters were detained in Moscow and four in Russia’s second city.

In St Petersburg, the protesters were detained after unfurling a banner declaring “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement”, gay rights group All Out said.

Google placed a rainbow version of its logo on its search page featuring the six colors on the gay pride flag: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The page also includes a quote from the Olympic charter underlining the right to practice sport without discrimination.

Google Inc. declined to comment.

Competition starts in earnest

Organizers have defended the costs of staging the Sochi Games amid concerns from Olympic officials that the huge price tag could put potential bidders off in future.

They said much of the infrastructure built for 2014 was designed to be used long after the Games finished, and the plan was to turn Sochi into a year-round resort, international sports centre and amusement park.

Despite grumblings about poor accommodation and tight security, the mood was upbeat among competitors and officials after a handful of early qualifying events in Sochi and at the mountain 25 miles to the northeast.

“Conditions offered to the athletes are absolutely outstanding,” said French Olympic Committee President Denis Masseglia on a clear, crisp day.

Saturday is the first full day of sporting action, with five gold medals to be decided.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Federal mediator joins Met Opera labor talks as…

Unions representing the orchestra and chorus of the Met Opera agreed to have a federal mediator join labor talks on Thursday as a threatened lockout loomed.

Local

Winning $7 million New York lottery ticket sold…

The only $7 million winning New York Lottery ticket for Monday's Cash4Life drawing was sold at a Queens 7-Eleven, officials said on Tuesday.

Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

Movies

Review: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is a refreshingly…

Marvel is sitting so high on a cash mountain that it's now thrown $170 million at the relatively obscure and very silly title "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Movies

Review: 'Get on Up' is a war between…

James Brown finally gets his own boring biopic with "Get on Up," but the Godfather of Soul puts up a good fight against the usual cliches.

Movies

Review: 'Child of God' finds director James Franco…

James Franco's 11th directed feature is a noble but sloppy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," about a feral mountain man (Scott Haze).

Movies

Review: Alex Gibney's Fela Kuti doc 'Finding Fela'…

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney takes on Afrobeat god Fela Kuti in "Finding Fela," but fails to capture his unique essence.

MLB

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade…

Yankees land Stephen Drew, Martin Prado at trade deadline

College

Playing the Field: Valentine's Day coupling edition

  It’s Valentine’s Day, a day created by Hallmark to make couples spend loads and loads of money on candy, flowers and gourmet dinners. Or…

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

Career

What do you wear to a career fair?…

Getting that gig starts with presenting the most polished and memorable version of yourself, so refer to our expert fashion advice.

Style

Editors pick: Margiela's finger armor ring

These cool rings from Maison Martin Margiela are designed to overlap over the finger, covering each joint like armor.

Style

Givenchy champions diversity

Riccardo Tisci's uses a variety of ethnically diverse ladies for his spring campaign including Erykah Badu.

Wellbeing

Don't settle for the hotel fitness center with…

Travelers who want to skip the hotel fitness center in favor of local gyms that may offer better equipment, classes and amenities can turn to…