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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Sochi lit up Friday with music and dance to unleash the ultimate achievement of Vladimir Putin’s Russia: a Winter Olympics to showcase the best athletes on ice and snow that the world has to offer.
The opening ceremony on the edge of the Black Sea and subsequent games are Russia’s chance to tell its story of post-Soviet resurrection to the world — and dispel the anger, fear and suspicion that has marred the buildup to these most expensive Olympics ever.
Just after the sun set over the Caucasus Mountains and along the seashore just outside Fisht Stadium in the wet-paint-fresh Olympic Park, Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to a pre-show crowd still taking their seats: “Welcome to the center of the universe!”
Soon to come are the athletes, in the traditional parade of nations that marks every opening ceremony. Some 3,000 will compete in 98 events, more people and events than ever at the Winter Games. The ceremony is crafted as a celebration of Russia and is presenting Putin’s version: a country with a rich and complex history emerging confidently from a rocky two decades and now capable of putting on a major international sports event.