Feb 7, 2014 11:18 PM by Connie Murphy
SOCHI, Russia - Russia raised the curtain Friday on its $50 billion Winter Games, seizing the world stage with a dazzling display of color and cultural pride that welcomed 3,000 athletes to its gleaming new Olympic stadium.
A triumphant President Vladimir Putin formally declared the games open - wresting the spotlight, for a moment at least, from the threat of terrorism and the specter of shoddy preparations that have marred his crowning achievement.
Maria Sharapova, the tennis star and a native of Sochi, jogged the Olympic torch into Fisht Stadium and handed it off to a series of Russian sports greats.
Then, solving the biggest mystery surrounding any opening ceremony, Soviet hockey great Vladislav Tretiak and figure skating legend Irina Rodnina ran it outside for the final honor. They touched off columns of shooting flames that climbed the soaring cauldron at the center of Sochi's Olympic park, where it will burn for the remaining 16 days of competition.
To the beat of electro-pop, Olympians all over the world marched onto the floor of Fisht Stadium: Greece first, as the birthplace of the games, then the other countries according to the Cyrillic alphabet. Russia, as host nation, went last, to enormous cheers.