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Sochi 2014: Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony Live Blog

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SOCHI OPENING CEREMONY
Performers sing as the Olympic rings are presented during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi. AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images) | YURI KADOBNOV via Getty Images

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics were declared officially open by Russian president Vladimir Putin at a lavish ceremony on Friday evening in which International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach called for "goodwill, tolerance, excellence and peace". The showpiece at the Fisht Olympic Stadium began at 2014 local time, featured former world heavyweight champion boxer Nikolai Valuev and tennis star Maria Sharapova, and was preceded by a warm-up segment that included a performance by controversial pop act t.A.T.u.

The duo, Lena Katina and Julia Volkova, sang a Russian version of their hit single ''Not Gonna Get Us'', holding hands on the stage and surrounded by Games volunteers. The single, which reached number seven in the UK charts in 2003, lyrically depicted the pair as teenage runaways-in-love and the duo's image appeared to directly contradict Russia's hard-line laws on "non-traditional" sexuality, which are widely seen as an attack on gay rights.

During the proceedings, Bach made a speech in which he thanked workers for their efforts in preparing Sochi for the Games, as well as the volunteers and residents of the Krasnodar regions. He then delivered a message to the "political leaders of the world", saying: "Thank you for supporting your athletes, they are the best ambassadors of your country.

"Please respect their Olympic message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of these athletes." He added: "The universal Olympic rules apply to each and every athlete, no matter where you come from or what your background is. You are living together in the Olympic village. You will celebrate victory with dignity and accept defeat with dignity. You are bringing the Olympic values to life.

"In this way, the Olympic Games, wherever they take place, set an example for a peaceful society. Olympic sport unites the people." Bach then handed over to Putin, who announced from the stands: "I declare open the Olympic Winter Games of Sochi."

The Games in the south-west coastal resort have cost Russia £30billion to stage and there was plenty of evidence of the money that had been spent on the opening ceremony, labelled by organisers as "the most complex and ambitious technical show ever attempted in Olympic history".

An early hiccup occurred when one of five rings brought together in mid-air to form the Olympic symbol failed to light properly. But overall, those watching in the arena and around the world were treated to an impressive show full of spectacular visuals and elaborate choreography. It was designed as a depiction of the history of Russia as seen through the dreams of a young girl named Lubov, meaning Love, and focused on the country's past, present and future.

Entitled Dreams of Russia, the show incorporated historical figures, mythological images and Russian dance, while one of the sections saw Valuev make an appearance as a policeman called Uncle Styopa. There was also the traditional Parade of Nations, in which athletes emerged from out of the floor in the centre of the stadium. Team GB was led by flagbearer Jon Eley and the host nation - last out - had bobsledder Alexander Zubkov in the role.

Eley's fellow British short track speed skater Jack Whelbourne said: "I was pumped marching in. The stadium is amazing. It was a great feeling. It was also special to line up behind Jon and have a short-tracker carrying the flag." Kristan Bromley, part of GB's skeleton team, said: "There was a lot of energy in the stadium and this is a great start to the Games.

"We had a really warm welcome. It's a proud moment to walk into the stadium behind your flag. It brings it all home." The ceremony concluded with the Olympic cauldron being lit via the torch, which four-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova carried into the stadium. Two Olympic gold medallists, figure skater Irina Rodnina and hockey player Vladislav Tretyak, completed the final action with the torch that sent the flame up to the cauldron.

Sochi 2014 organisers said 66 leaders including heads of state and international organisations would attend the ceremony, with United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and the respective leaders of China and Japan joining Putin. But a number of world leaders were notably not attending, including Barack Obama, David Cameron and Angela Merkel. In the post-ceremony briefing, Sochi 2014 ceremonies producer Konstantin Ernst dismissed the Olympic rings malfunction as a minor blip in an otherwise flawless display.

He said: "Of all five Olympic rings, one hasn't opened up unfortunately. It would be ridiculous to focus on this ring that never opened, it would be simply silly. In Buddhism, there is an idea that if you have a perfectly polished ball, keep one part tarnished in order to understand how perfectly polished the rest of it is.

"The rings were the simplest technical part of the show, so if you consider the rest of the technical side, it was the most complicated show ever. The rest of the technical side was just immaculate, and this was a tiny unpolished part of the ball in order to see how perfect the rest of the show was."

live blog

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07/02/2014 19:04 GMT
Goodnight

That was an enjoyable opening ceremony bolstered by the classical music soundtrack and some wonderful choreography, despite some notable omissions from Russia's historic timeline.

Here's the Cauldron burning brightly

olympic flame

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07/02/2014 19:02 GMT
More Maria

olympic flame

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07/02/2014 18:59 GMT
Fireworks

It looks pretty extraordinary even from an armchair, let alone inside the stadium. It's still ongoing and the Olympic Village for these Winter Games looks incredibly impressive at night.

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07/02/2014 18:57 GMT
Shara

maria sharapova

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07/02/2014 18:56 GMT
It's aliiiiiight!

The Olympic Cauldron burns brightly in Sochi, an incredible fireworks display goes off and the crowd, I imagine, are going berserk. The Winter Olympics are well underway as Bolshoi plays.

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07/02/2014 18:54 GMT
The Flame

Yelena Isinbayeva, the pole vaulter, followed by Greco-Roman wrestling greatAleksandr Karelin, then Alina Kabayeva, gymnast, and then ice hockey master Vladislav Tretyak also carried the Flame.

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07/02/2014 18:51 GMT
Olympic flag

sochi opening ceremony

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07/02/2014 18:50 GMT
Maria Sharapova

The four-time Grand Slam winner and 2004 Wimbledon champion, born in Sochi, brought the flame into the stadium.

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07/02/2014 18:49 GMT
The Olympic Flame...

Has belatedly arrived. No Andrei Arshavin on a speedboat, though.

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Robin Cousins, still with us, remarks. It's all gone a bit Starlight Express, which was a traumatic experience when I went to see it as a seven-year-old.

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07/02/2014 18:41 GMT
Swan Lake

sochi opening ceremony

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07/02/2014 18:33 GMT
Here comes the Olympic Flag

Don't let the fact Shami Chakrabarti carried it at London 2012 ruin that memory.

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07/02/2014 18:32 GMT
Instead, it's Coronation March

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Cultured stuff and very, very Russian. Sleeping Beauty may be an inappropriate score for mobile athletes but it'd go down a treat.

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07/02/2014 18:29 GMT
Socialism

sochi opening ceremony

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07/02/2014 18:27 GMT
Tchaikovsky

Swan Lake, to be precise.

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07/02/2014 18:27 GMT
Kronsteen speaks!

Sorry, I mean Putin speaks. He has opened the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

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"Hello. You athletes are very impressive. Russia is a nice country. The Olympics are a pretty cool thing, aren’t they? Thanks for watching. And for volunteering! That last bit was mainly aimed at the volunteers."

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07/02/2014 18:17 GMT
IOC president Thomas Bach

He's stepped up to the podium now. No, Jacques Rogge stepped down a while ago.

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07/02/2014 18:16 GMT
War and Peace

Yes, they're still jabbering on

sochi opening ceremony

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07/02/2014 18:14 GMT
That little girl

sochi opening ceremony

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07/02/2014 18:11 GMT
Oh Christ

It's speech time.

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07/02/2014 18:08 GMT
Baby boom
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07/02/2014 18:05 GMT
50s Russia

It looks remarkably like 50s America. They're rock 'n' rollin', cruisin' in their cars and dressed in glorious technicolor. It's the film The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could have been, perhaps.

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07/02/2014 18:04 GMT
Very good
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07/02/2014 18:02 GMT
Nikolay Valuev

The former boxer has just appeared.

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Twenty seven million Russians died in WWII, and homage is now paid to the rebuilding process.

This has been a genuinely impressive and succinct re-telling of Russia's history, so far. The music and choreography have made for an impressive spectacle so far and we have swiftly moved onto the Soviet Union's rise post-war.

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07/02/2014 18:00 GMT
The Red Machine
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