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2014-07-22 07:21 IN THE FRENCH PRESS

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Europe

In pictures: Sochi Olympics open with a bang (and a glitch)

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-07

The opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics got off to a shaky start in Sochi on Friday when an illuminated snowflake that was supposed to transform into the fifth glowing white Olympic ring failed to do so.

In what appeared to be a technical glitch, the fifth and final giant snowflake-shaped structure that was suspended from the roof failed to unfurl into an Olympic ring and the sequence had to be abandoned.

The show at the newly constructed Fisht Stadium went on with no other unexpected surprises and cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who has spent more days in space than anyone on earth, 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 of nations while a giant satellite image of each country taken from space was projected onto the floor.

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

A young girl in a white dress soared into the air, lifted by a harness, and sang as islands representing different parts of Russia with folktale scenes drifted dreamlike across the stadium.

The February 7-23 Olympic Games were officially launched at 8:14pm local time (4:14pm GMT), with a burst of fireworks lighting up the clear night sky minutes later outside the gleaming new stadium, located on the shores of the Black Sea.

The state-of-the-art arena, one of several construction projects that have swelled the budget of the Winter Games to a record $50 billion, holds 40,000 people. President Vladimir Putin was joined by more than 40 world leaders for the event.

Millions more will watch on television and via the Internet as Russia hosts its first Winter Olympics, an event on which Putin has staked his reputation.

Putin's official role is likely to be limited to declaring the Games open, as is traditional for the host nation's head of state.

Sochi under fire

The run-up to the Games has been marred by threats from Islamist militants based in nearby Chechnya and neighbouring southern Russian regions of attacks, and by international criticism of Russia's new law against what it calls "gay propaganda".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was in attendance on Friday, standing near Putin at the opening ceremony, despite condemning Russia’s discrimination against gays in a speech to the International Olympic Committee earlier this month.

"Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century," Ban had said.

Organisers have also been under fire for the record-high costs involved, unfinished accommodation and amenities, and the decision to cull stray dogs in Sochi.

But Putin will hope the opening ceremony signals an end to the griping, as the athletes begin to provide the thrills and spills on ice and snow.

Details of the 2 and a 1/2-hour show were kept a closely guarded secret, but Russian television executive Konstantin Ernst, in charge of ceremonies at the Games, promised a passage through key moments in Russian history.

The ceremony will include reference to the upheaval of the 1917 Russian revolution and the importance of the avant-garde art movement at around that time.

"Avant-garde predicted the Russian revolution, and the Russian revolution killed avant-garde art," said Ernst, who as director general of Channel One Russia has been key in honing Putin's image for the Russian public.

He added that, unlike at the London Games in 2012, Russia could not draw on globally recognised contemporary music, meaning classical music and art would play a greater role.

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, one of the biggest names in international opera, will sing the Olympic anthem and ballet stars will take part in dance sequences.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

 

Date created : 2014-02-07

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