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article imageSochi captivates with stunning opening show

By John Weaver (AFP)     Feb 7, 2014 in World

Sochi dazzled the world on Friday with an opening ceremony featuring a feast of Russian music and a cast of thousands including ballet stars, acrobats, cosmonauts -- and even an ex-heavyweight boxer.

The theme of the event was "Dreams of Russia", with a young girl named Lyubov (love) guiding spectators at the packed Fisht stadium on the Black Sea coast through thousands of years of Russian history.

With the mists clearing after a spectacular opening sequence in the roofed venue, President Vladimir Putin looked on while a choir from the Sretensky Monastery sang the Russian national anthem as the flag was raised by a group of Russian cosmonauts.

A total of 240 athlete marshals glowing red, white or blue came together in the centre of the stadium to create a giant Russian flag.

There was an early glitch when one of five illuminated snowflakes that were to morph into the five Olympic rings inside the arena failed to open.

Sculptures portraying a hammer and sickle float above a street scene during the Opening Ceremony of ...
Sculptures portraying a hammer and sickle float above a street scene during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Yuri Kadobnov, AFP

After the athletes' parade, giant helium inflatables filled the stadium floor, surrounded by bouncing and tumbling acrobats, with the balloons eventually becoming the onion domes, tent roofs and gables of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

Scores of dancers flooded the stage, with ballet stars bringing Leo Tolstoy's epic novel "War and Peace" to life, performing in an elaborate imperial ball among giant columns.

A giant chugging steam train whistling and belching smoke entered the stadium suspended from the gantry as the story moved on to the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Giant former WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev played Uncle Styopa, the policeman character from a series of Soviet children's poems as the unfolding narrative reached the mid-20th century.

Putin, who has staked so much of his personal reputation on turning the $50 billion Olympics into a success, declared the Games open as fireworks lit up the winter air above the stadium.

Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadiu...
Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Andrej Isakovic, AFP

To the strains of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", dancers clad in white -- including internationally renowned ballerina Diana Vishneva -- swirled around the stadium floor, eventually creating the shape of a dove before opera star Anna Netrebko sang the Olympic Hymn.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova -- who spent part of her childhood in Sochi -- carried the torch into the stadium and handed it over to Olympic pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva as it made its way around a darkened stadium.

It was carried out of the stadium by former figure skater Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretyak, an ex-ice hockey player, and both triple Olympic gold medallists from the Soviet era.

They lit the cauldron while Stravinksy's "Firebird Suite" filled the stadium accompanied by more fireworks in a breathtaking climax to the ceremony.

The Olympic Cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics  February ...
The Olympic Cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014
© Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov
Sculptures and a hammer and sickle are seen floating over street scene during the Opening Ceremony o...
Sculptures and a hammer and sickle are seen floating over street scene during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Lionel Bonaventure, AFP
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sings the Olympic Anthem during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Wint...
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sings the Olympic Anthem during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Damien Meyer, AFP
Canada s flag-bearer Hayley Wickenheiser leads her country s contingent during the opening ceremony ...
Canada's flag-bearer Hayley Wickenheiser leads her country's contingent during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014
© Reuters / Jim Young
Handout picture taken during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay on January 20  2014  and rele...
Handout picture taken during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay on January 20, 2014, and released by the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Organizing Committee shows a skater with an Olympic torch in the Volga River city of Volgograd
-, Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee/AFP/File
Poland s flag-bearer Dawid Kupczyk leads his country s contingent during the opening ceremony of the...
Poland's flag-bearer Dawid Kupczyk leads his country's contingent during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games at Fisht stadium February 7, 2014
© Reuters / Brian Snyder
Performers participate in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
Performers participate in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
PHIL NOBLE, Reuters
Russia s President Putin and IOC President Bach attend the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter...
Russia's President Putin and IOC President Bach attend the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
RIA NOVOSTI, Reuters
Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadiu...
Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Alberto Pizzoli, AFP
Participants perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics  February 7  2014
Participants perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014
© Reuters
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (right) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President T...
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (right) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach wave during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi on February 7, 2014
Alberto Pizzoli, AFP
The Olympic flag into the stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics  Feb...
The Olympic flag into the stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014
© Reuters / Lucy Nicholson
Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame cauldron at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi ...
Fireworks explode behind the Olympic flame cauldron at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Loic Venance, AFP
A runner carries the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch along a bridge across Yenisei River near the Kr...
A runner carries the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch along a bridge across Yenisei River near the Krasnoyarsk hydro electric power station near the town of Divnogorsk outside Krasnoyarsk, November 25, 2013
With permission by Reuters / Ilya Naymushin
Fireworks explode over Olympic flame cauldron at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter...
Fireworks explode over Olympic flame cauldron at the end of the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 7, 2014 in Sochi
Peter Parks, AFP
2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi
2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi
-, -, AFP
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