Sochi opens Winter Olympics

Every seat in Fisht Stadium had cloth bags that included a faux Olympic medal that they asked those in attendance to put around their necks. The medals lit up in several different colors, including blue, white and violet. The decorations sent shockwaves of light in sync with the upbeat techno music playing in the background as each nation was introduced.

The announcer paused for dramatic effect before the Russians were introduced, and the lights formed a red, white and blue waving flag as the crowd leaped to its feet and clapped along to a thumping beat that shook the building.

After the athletes had taken their seats in the crowd, a fanciful scene started with three giant, white, illuminated horses leading a parade of towering inflatables on to the stage. The balloons -- all with the familiar bulbous tops of Russian cathedrals -- bounced around the stage as children frolicked in a euphoric state of play.

It looked like a Russian version of Disney on Ice, and the thrilling scene wrapped with church bells ringing and the kids bounding off to loud cheers.

The night also included the ballet, classical music and odes to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy as expected.

Before the televised portion of the ceremony, Russian singers Tatu performed "Not Gonna Get Us" -- steering clear of the anger over a Russian law banning gay "propaganda" aimed at minors that is being used to discriminate against gays.

The women in Tatu are known for putting on a lesbian act that is largely seen as an attention-getting gimmick, but on this night, they merely held hands, stopping short of the groping and kissing of their past performances. 

This time, their lead-in act was the Red Army Choir MVD signing Daft Punk's Grammy-winning "Get Lucky."

For people who don't know much about Russia, the ceremony's director, Konstantin Ernst, promised "relatively simple metaphors" -- and no obscure references, like the nurses in the London Games' opening ceremony representing the National Health Service, which he called one of the most "incomprehensible" moments in Olympic history.

Ernst said Tatu's "Not Gonna Get Us" was chosen because it's one of the only Russian pop songs that international viewers might recognize. Ernst also argued the choice of Tatu's song was about motivating athletes with an upbeat dance song that challenges competitors by saying, "You're not going to get us."

The Winter Games ceremony is generally a more low-key event than the summer opener. Ernst said organizers tried to keep it from dragging out too long, since most viewers only care to watch their own team and its key rivals.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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