SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Sochi has lit up 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 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 Thursday over the Caucasus Mountains and the seashore, Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to the crowd: "Welcome to the center of the universe!"
Soon to come are the athletes. Some 3,000 in 98 events, more people and events than ever at the Winter Games.