The most expensive Winter Olympics in history are under way after a colourful opening ceremony in the Russian resort of Sochi.
Some 40,000 spectators, as well as hundreds of competitors from 87 countries, descended on the Fisht stadium – one of five newly-built venues in the Olympic Park.
As millions of people around the world tuned in on television, there was an embarrassing early glitch as one of the five Olympic rings suspended from the ceiling failed to illuminate completely.
A huge snowflake appeared in its place, as the stadium was plunged into darkness for the start of the ceremony.
More than 6,000 costumes were reportedly made for performers in the show, which reflected on important events in Russian history, including the 1917 Revolution, the rise of Communism and the space race.
Tennis star Maria Sharapova was among those who carried the Olympic torch on the final leg of its journey, while the cauldron was lit by rhythmic gymnastics star Alina Kabayeva and wrestling champion Aleksandr Karelin.
A memorable opening ceremony featured appearances by former Russian boxing champion Nikolay Valuev and renowned ballet dancer Svetlana Zakharova.
Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and Lidiya Skoblikova, the six-time speed skating champion, were among those who carried the Olympic flag into the stadium.
Earlier, the head of the International Olympic Committee said preparations for the sporting spectacle had been “going pretty smoothly”.
Thomas Bach said he was eager to put aside concerns over security and gay rights, adding: “As always with the first days of the Games, there’s a small hiccup here or there, but nothing really substantial so far.”… see more