ADLER, Russia — In a ceremony entitled “Dreams about Russia,” the Sochi 2014 Olympics got underway, arguably the most controversial and contentious Winter Games in history, as much a referendum on modern Russia as celebration of the best in winter sports. “Welcome to the center of the universe!” Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to kick off the evening, touching off a show that veered through the centuries amid the strains of classical music, the thump of dance music and the crash and boom of fireworks that lit the night sky.
As the Russian team made its way into and around Fisht Olympic Stadium, the place literally shook to a heavy bass beat. Television cameras showed Russian president Vladimir Putin smiling. Later, he would formally declare the Games open. And he would smile again.
Irina Rodnina, the most successful pairs figure skater in history with three gold medals, and Vladislav Tretyak, arguably the greatest hockey goalie ever with three golds and one silver, together lit the cauldron.
In much the same way that with the bang of 2008 drums China sought six years ago to announce its arrival onto the 21st century world stage, these 2014 Olympic Games were always going to be a defining occasion for Russia and, in particular, Putin.
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