Music, dance and plenty of Russian bravado unleashed the ultimate achievement of Vladimir Putin’s Russia on Friday — 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 build-up 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 crowd still taking their seats: “Welcome to the centre of the universe!” A satellite image of the earth was projected on the floor of Fisht Stadium as athletes entered during the parade of nations, the map shifting so the athletes emerged from their own country. The athletes from the Cayman Islands even arrived in shorts!
The ceremony was 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.
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Meanwhile, a passenger on board an Istanbul-bound flight Friday claimed there was a bomb on board and tried to hijack the plane to Sochi, Russia, where the Olympics are kicking off, an official said.
Turkey scrambled an F-16 fighter jet to accompany the Pegasus Airlines plane as it landed at the airport after a flight from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov
The plane landed safely at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport, but 110 passengers are still on board and authorities are trying to convince the alleged hijacker to give himself up, Habib Soluk, the country’s Transport Ministry undersecretary, told NTV television. Some media reports said the suspect had been taken away for questioning but one official at the Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul said the suspect had not yet been seized.
The passenger was believed to have benn drunk and was calmed down by crew and persuaded to let the plane, a Boeing 737-800, land in Istanbul, Dogan news agency stated. Soluk said the man rose from his seat, shouted that there was a bomb on board and tried to enter the locked cockpit. The pilot signaled there was a hijack attempt and the airport was placed on high alert. Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a statement there was a “bomb threat” aboard their flight from Kharkov. With about 100,000 police, security agents and troops flooding Sochi, Russia pledged to ensure “the safest Olympics in history”. But terror fears fuelled by recent bombings have left athletes, spectators and officials worldwide jittery about potential threats.