Fireworks lit up the skies over Sochi on Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming Winter Olympics.
As athletes began to arrive for the February Games, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed members of the International Olympic Committee.
In his speech, he thanked the IOC for its support in the run up to the competition.
“I want to underline that a colossal amount of work has gone into the realisation of this Olympic project over the years,” he said. “You, the members of the International Olympic Committee, have supported the Olympic dreams of tens of millions of Russians.”
The Sochi Winter Olympics are expected to cost around €37.7 billion, making them potentially the most expensive Olympics ever held.
IOC President Thomas Bach also made a speech, in which he admonished those world powers who will not attend the Games.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande are among several leaders who announced that they would be absent from the Sochi Games, without providing reasons.
“In the extreme, we had to see a few politicians whose contribution to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received,” Bach said.
“We are grateful to those who respect the fact that sport can only contribute to development and peace if it is not used as a stage for political dissent.”
Russia has faced criticism over its human rights record and recent anti-gay propaganda law, which openly restricts the rights of the country’s homosexuals.
The United States’ delegation to the Sochi Winter Olympics includes three openly gay members, one of whom is former tennis champion Billie Jean King.
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