Sochi, 7 February: Russia on Friday launched the opening ceremony for one of the most controversial Winter Olympics in history, seeking to convince a sceptical world that the project spearheaded by President Vladimir Putin would be a success.
After a build-up dogged by controversies over gay rights, construction delays and security concerns, the 40,000 capacity Fisht stadium on the Black Sea in Sochi burst into cheers at 2014 local time (1614 GMT) for the start of the two-and-a-half hour ceremony.
Fireworks were set off as a young girl named Lyubov (Love), attached to a harness, appeared to walk in the air of the stadium above a procession of famous Russian landscapes. There was an early glitch, however, when one of five illuminated snowflakes which were to morph into the five Olympic rings inside the arena, failed to light. Few Games in recent times have been so inextricably linked with the name of one man. Putin has championed the drive to host the Olympics in Sochi since before the successful bid in 2007 right up to the ceremony itself.     afp