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Russian President Vladimir Putin has opened the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in a spectacular ceremony in Sochi.
The ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi was themed Breaking the Ice and featured music, dance, special effects and fireworks.
“I call upon all those who experience these Games to have barrier-free minds,” said International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven.
“Dreams do come true and, since winning the Games seven years ago, this part of Russia has undergone a monumental transformation.
“The Paralympics will surprise you, tremendous skills will excite you and examples of human endeavor will inspire you. The sport you witness here will change you. Not just for now, but forever.”
2014 Winter Paralympic Games have been opened in a spectacular ceremony in Sochi
The Ukraine team only confirmed on Friday morning they would take part in the Games after fears they would boycott the event following Russia’s occupation of Crimea.
Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Suskevich warned that any escalation of military conflict would result in the team leaving Sochi.
The Ukraine team was only represented in the athletes’ parade by their flag-bearer Mykailo Tkachenko, with a number of his team-mates opting not to take part though they were elsewhere in the stadium.
The scenes of the ceremony were linked by the journey of the firebird, a mythical bird from Russian folklore said to be a symbol of wealth and happiness.
Featured performances came from 25-year-old Yulia Samoylova, the runner-up in the Russian version of the X Factor, Faktor A, who has been in a wheelchair since childhood, and blind accordionist Alexey Levchuk.
The show culminated in a huge ice scene, featuring an Icebreaker ship crashing easily through blocks of ice, before a spectacular lighting of the flame.
Action starts on Saturday and runs until Sunday, March 16, and the Games will feature 547 athletes from a record 45 countries, with 72 gold medals up for grabs across the five sports – biathlon, cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling.
Winter Paralympics Games are taking place less than two weeks since the Sochi Winter Olympics closed.
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The sporting world is back to Sochi on Friday for the Winter Paralympics opening ceremony.
Less than two weeks after the Winter Olympics ended, 547 athletes from 45 countries will compete for 72 gold medals in five sports over 10 days.
It is the largest number of countries to take part in the event since it was first held in 1976.
The sporting world is back to Sochi on Friday for the Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
The Games, opened by Russian president Vladimir Putin, will begin amid an escalating political crisis in Ukraine.
A number of the world’s politicians have said they will snub the showpiece event following Russian intervention in Crimea, situated just 300 miles from Sochi.
Ukraine had contemplated a boycott of the event but on Friday, the Ukraine Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Suskevich confirmed that their 23-strong team would take part.
The opening ceremony at the Fisht Stadium gets underway at 8 p.m. local time with action due to get start on Saturday.
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Russia finished on top of the medal table as the 22nd Winter Olympics came to a close in Sochi on Sunday after 17 days of competition.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach officially closed the Games during an extravagant 130-minute ceremony.
South Korea was given the Olympic flag as Pyeongchang hosts the 2018 Games.
Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated a rush of medals in Sochi with a triumphant closing ceremony on the shores of the Black Sea.
After spending $50 billion to build a mountain ski resort and a cluster of shimmering sports venues from scratch, failure was not an option for the omnipresent Russian president.
At the opening ceremony a fortnight ago, all the talk was of security fears, culls of stray dogs, last-minute glitches and a giant hydraulic snowflake that failed to open.
The 22nd Winter Olympics came to a close in Sochi on Sunday after 17 days of competition
But by the closing ceremony – which featured ballet from the Bolshoi, music by Rachmaninov and tributes to Tolstoy and Kandinsky plus the usual protocol – the atmosphere was one of pure celebration swathed in the colors of the Russian flag.
IOC President Thomas Bach declared the most expensive Games in history “a real special experience”.
He also personally thanked Vladimir Putin for his contribution to the “extraordinary success of these Winter Games”.
The opening ceremony had been a pleasingly offbeat romp through Russian art and culture. With its marching bands and 1,000-strong children’s choir singing the national anthem, this was more of a traditional show of strength.
For the Russians who wildly cheered a clean sweep of the podium in the 30 mile cross country skiing and a second gold in the bobsleigh for Alexander Zubkov on the final day of competition, a surge of sporting success helped it go with a swing.
The Russian ice hockey team had limped out of the competition to Finland at the quarter-final stage, leaving Canada to triumph over Sweden in Sunday’s final.
Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony will be held on February 23 at 20:00 local time, at the Fisht Olympic Stadium.
The closing ceremony will feature the parade of athletes, the extinguishing of the Olympic flame and the official hand over to South Korea.
Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics closing ceremony will be held at the Fisht Olympic Stadium
The 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in Pyeongchang, between February 9 and February 25.
On February 23, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day.
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Sochi Winter Games: Day 10, February 17
Medals to be won today: Biathlon (women’s mass start), bobsleigh (two-man), figure skating (ice dance), freestyle skiing (men’s aerials), ski jump (men’s team), snowboard (men’s snowboard cross).
05:00 Curling – round robin
Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
12:30 Ice hockey – women’s semi-finals.
14:30 Bobsleigh – two-man third and fourth heats.
15:00 Figure skating – ice dance (free dance).
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Sochi Winter Games: Day Nine, February 16
Medals to be won today: Alpine skiing (men’s super-G), biathlon (men’s mass start), cross country skiing (men’s relay), snowboard (women’s snowboard cross), speed skating (women’s 1,500m).
05:00 Curling – men’s group game.
Sochi Winter Olympics 2014
07:00 Snowboard – women’s snowboard cross.
15:00 Figure skating – ice dance (short dance).
16:15 Bobsleigh – two-man, first and second heats.
Also: Ice hockey group games.
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Sochi Winter Games Day Four: Tuesday, February 11
Medals won today: Biathlon (women’s pursuit), cross country skiing (individual sprints), freestyle skiing (women’s slopestyle), luge (women’s singles), ski jumping (women), snowboard (men’s halfpipe), speed skating (women’s 500m).
06:00 Freestyle skiing – women’s slopestyle.
Sochi Winter Games 2014
10:00 Cross country skiing – individual sprints.
10:00 Snowboard – men’s halfpipe.
17:30 Ski jump – women.
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08:00 Ice hockey – women’s group stage. The US and defending champions Canada, expected to be the two women’s ice hockey finalists for the fourth time in five Games, begin their campaigns against Finland and Switzerland respectively. (08:00 US-Finland, 13:00 Canada-Switzerland)
08:45 Snowboard – men’s slopestyle final. Canada’s Mark McMorris and US legend Shaun White were expected to feature in the battle for men’s gold until White pulled out on February 5, citing “the potential risk of injury” on a course where Norway’s Torstein Horgmo had earlier broken his collarbone. That leaves Mark McMorris – himself competing with a broken rib – and fellow Canadian Seb Toutant among the leading contenders for gold.
Sochi Winter Games 2014
11:30 Speed skating – men’s 5,000m.
14:30 Biathlon – men’s sprint.
Also: Figure skating (team event continues), luge (men’s singles, runs one and two), ski jump (men’s normal-hill qualifying).
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An Ukrainian passenger, who is suspected of making a bomb threat and trying to hijack a plane, demanding to go to the Winter Olympics venue of Sochi, is now in custody in Turkey.
Turkey scrambled an F-16 fighter jet to accompany the Pegasus Airlines plane as it landed at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport after a flight from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov.
Security officials are searching the plane, which had 110 passengers aboard.
Turkey scrambled an F-16 fighter jet to accompany the Pegasus Airlines plane as it landed at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport after a flight from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov
A Ukrainian man sitting in seat 2F said he had a bomb on him and demanded that the flight be diverted to Sochi, Hasip Soluk Habertük, the Turkish Undersecretary of Transportation told reporters.
The crew told him: “Yes, we are directing the flight to Sochi,” according to the transportation official. But then the pilots turned off the in-flight monitors and flew to Istanbul.
Once plane entered Turkish airspace, the plane was escorted by two Turkish F-16s.
The plane is in a secure area at Istanbul’s airport. Passengers and crew are still inside plane.
Meanwhile, Sochi Winter Olympics kicked off with a spectacular opening ceremony.
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The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Tuesday criticized Russian authorities for restricting news coverage of preparations for the Sochi Olympics.
The international journalism watchdog detailed in a report how Russian and international journalists have been harassed and prevented from covering sensitive stories in Sochi such as the abuse of migrant workers and environmental issues.
The report documented how Russian state-controlled media have been ignoring critical issues while few local journalists working for independent news outlets faced a campaign of smear and harassment.
”Russian authorities have cracked down on journalists, rights defenders, and civil activists in a way not seen since the break-up of the Soviet Union,” CPJ coordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement.
CPJ criticized Russian authorities for restricting news coverage of preparations for the Sochi Olympics
There was no immediate response from Russian authorities to the criticism leveled by CPJ.
Months before the start of the games, journalists and activists were detained and some of them put on trial. Svetlana Kravchenko of the Caucasian Knot website, a prominent local journalist who has covered environmental travesties in Sochi and the heavy-handed tactics of local officials, was tried and found guilty of beating up a security guard.
Rights groups including Human Right Watch called local authorities responsible for the campaign of harassment against journalists and activists. Local authorities insist that criminal prosecution against members of the public including journalists is a matter of law enforcement agencies and is in no way politicized.
Sochi will host the Winter Games between February 7 and 23.
Sochi police are hunting for Ruzanna Ibragimova, a woman they fear may be planning to carry out a suicide bomb attack ahead of Winter Olympics.
They have put up wanted posters in hostels around the town, which is hosting the Winter Olympics next month.
The 23-year-old Ruzanna Ibragimova from Dagestan in the North Caucasus region, is believed to be the widow of an Islamist militant.
She is thought to have slipped into Sochi earlier this month, bypassing tight security ahead of the Games.
At least two other potential female suicide bombers are also at large in the region, other police posters state.
Ruzanna Ibragimova from Dagestan in the North Caucasus region, is believed to be the widow of an Islamist militant
President Vladimir Putin has launched one of the biggest security operations in Olympic history, and has personally inspected the sites.
More than 30,000 police and interior ministry troops have been deployed and access to the area limited.
Security fears were heightened after two suicide bomb attacks killed 34 people in the southern city of Volgograd on December 29 and 30.
President Barack Obama, in a telephone conversation with the Kremlin on Tuesday, offered America’s “full assistance” in making the Olympics “safe and secure”, the White House said.
Two US warships will be on standby in the Black Sea when the Games begin on February 7. Washington has also offered to supply Russia with hi-tech equipment to help detect improvised explosives.
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