UK & World News

  • 8 February 2014, 13:21

Sochi Opening Spectacular Marred By Rings Glitch

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."

Short track speed skater Jon Eley†lead Team GB's 56 athletes into the stadium after he was selected as the country's flagbearer.

"It's an amazing privilege and a moment that I'll treasure for the rest of my life," the 29-year-old said.

An enormous security operation has been launched in†Sochi amid concerns terrorists could attempt to disrupt the opening of the Games.

Tens of thousands of police and soldiers have been drafted in, and naval ships, drones and anti-aircraft missiles are on standby to respond to any attack.

Asked whether Sochi was the first Olympics to face a direct terror threat, Mr Bach replied: "I'm sorry but you (cannot forget) how many threats there were on each of the Games before.

"We had threats on Sydney, we had threats on Athens. Maybe you remember the situation in Salt Lake City?"

He added: "If you speak with the athletes in the Olympic Village, they all feel very comfortable.

"I'm absolutely sure this Olympic atmosphere will spill over from the Olympic Village to the audience and the Games."

It is not known how much the opening ceremony cost, although it is likely to dwarf those of previous Olympics, given the $51bn (£31bn) Russia has spent on staging the event.

Director Konstantin Ernst†managed to keep its contents a closely-guarded secret.

He promised "relatively simple metaphors", having previously described the role NHS nurses played in the opening ceremony of London 2012 as one of the most "incomprehensible" moments in Olympic history.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

Advertisement