It was big. It was bold. And it has got the Winter Games started.
A glittering opening ceremony has been held in Sochi with dance, music, fireworks and a journey through Russia’s history to delight the 40,000 people present.
Host President Vladimir Putin was joined by more than 40 world leaders.
Millions more watched on television and via the Internet as the 22nd Winter Games got underway at the state-of-the-art Fisht Stadium.
These are Russia’s first Winter Olympics and President Putin has staked his reputation on them.
He will be hoping all the controversies in the build-up will now be consigned to history and that the athletes will do the talking with thrills and spills on ice and snow.
Between now and February 23, the competition for gold, silver and bronze medals will dominate the world’s sporting agenda.
Our correspondent at the Games, Denis Loctier, said the people of Sochi have been eagerly anticipating the Opening Ceremony. Not everyone was able to get a seat inside. The last tickets were sold for the equivalent of around 630 euros. But many people came to the city centre to watch a live broadcast on big screens.
There was a party atmosphere on the streets as revellers in the Russian Black Sea resort turned out for a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to say: “I was there”.
“We came with all our family,” said one man, with his child on his shoulders. “It is a big event for us, for our city, and for the whole country. This happens only once, and you have got to watch it, like this, at least.”
“We have been waiting for these Games for seven years, and now the wait is over,” another man said. “We are really enjoying everything that is going on here.”
The event has revived happy memories for some.
“I skied all my life,” said an elderly woman. “Yes, I was an athlete. I won the first place at our factory.”
Many of those gathered took the opportunity to encourage their national sporting heroes, proudly waving Russian flags and shouting patriotic slogans.