Sochi Winter Olympics begin with glittering ceremony (Pics)

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Sochi (Russia), Feb 8: The 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off in Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi Friday with an outrageously extravagant opening ceremony.

Russia's former triple gold medallists Vladislav Tretiak and Irina Rodnina lit the Olympic flame, as fireworks illuminated the night sky.

[Read: No Indian flag at Winter Olympics]

At a cost of 30 billion pounds (over $49 billion), the Sochi Games is the most expensive Olympics in history, BBC reported.

Former triple gold medallists Vladislav Tretiak and Irina Rodnina lit the flame

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the Games open saying: "I declare the Olympic Games open", as more than 2,900 athletes from 87 countries paraded before 40,000 people in the newly-built Fisht Olympic Stadium.

Over 40 leaders from different parts of the world, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, attended the opening of the grand sporting extravaganza. US President Barack Obama and some European Union leaders, however, were absent.

Meanwhile, spectators inside the stadium and television viewers worldwide were treated to a glittering show lasting nearly three hours and featuring 22 tonnes of fireworks.

The glitzy opening ceremony featured Russian music, ballet stars, acrobats, and cosmonauts, the Voice of America reported.

Meanwhile, tight security measures were in place in and around the Olympic village, with authorities on guard for possible terrorist attacks.

Islamic militants have threatened attacks, and analysts have singled out train stations and other areas where civilians congregate as possible targets.

On this occasion, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, said 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.

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 Saturday, when gold medals in five sports will be contested.

In Sochi

Characters perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, left, and his wife Claudia, second left, attend the Olympic reception hosted by the Russian President in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

Sochi Winter Olympics begin with glittering ceremony

An image is projected on the floor during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

Shiva Kesavan, an Independent Olympic Participant, third from left, arrives during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

Chinese President Xi Jinping watches from the presidential lounge as athletes from China are introduced at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi.

In Sochi

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

From left, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Russian President Vladimir Putin wave during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

One of the rings forming the Olympic Rings fails to open during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada carries the national flag as she leads the team during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

The Great Britain team is introduced during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

An artist performs during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

Snowflakes hang on dancers during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. The five snowflakes were supposed to transition into Olympic rings, but one failed to open.

In Sochi

Russian President Vladimir Putin, second from right, and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, centre, wave as they stand alongside United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, third from left, during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

In Sochi

In a photo taken with a fisheye lens, spectators arrive at the Fisht Olympic Stadium prior to the start of the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7

In Soch

Fireworks are seen over the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.

IANS

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