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SOCHI, RUSSIA

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´╗┐Games open with rich display

It almost seemed it could not be done, but the Russians, in the face of controversy and continuous terrorist threats, pulled it off, even though it came with an Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Womens White

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"Tonight we are writing a new page in Olympic history," International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said.

I've heard it many times in my week in Sochi. Many of the Russian people have come to believe the world will not be impressed with what they've done here, perhaps confusing dislike for government policy for a lack of respect for this Olympic achievement.

But inside, the 40,000 or so mostly Russian fans seemed impervious before Russian President Vladimir Putin officially declared the Games open. They saved their loudest cheers for the Russian team, but also had warm welcomes for Canada and Jamaica, among others.

They needed massive amounts of infrastructure and enough sporting arenas in one central location to seat 75,000 fans at once.

unheard of $51 billion price tag.

The five minute standing ovation for the Russian Federation team as it entered the Stadium was an indication of that.

The price it came with could not only be measured in terms of financial drain on the people of Russia but also the toll it has taken on the residents of Sochi.

"Thank you Converse All Star White for your patience, thank you for your understanding during these years of transformation," Bach said to the people of Sochi. "Now you're living in an Olympic region. I'm sure you'll enjoy the benefits for many, many years to come."

It has not been an easy seven years. Many have been displaced and have had to deal with diversions and 24/7 construction near their homes for years. They've been somewhat coerced into being an Olympic city and have had to put up a collective brave face even though, for many, this type of opulence as no place in their economically challenged lives.

From the dazzling technological displays, suspended props mystically floating through the air, to the thousands of performers from Russia's rich cultural scene, the event was being hailed as one of the most innovative opening ceremony in history.

I assured them I'm not alone. Speak to just about any athlete who has arrived here, seen the venues and the facilities, and they will say the same thing.

I have met several Russian people who expressed delight that I was impressed by the venues and the overall organization of the Games, along with the hospitality of the Russian people.

On this cold and clear night, before the spectacular fireworks display clouded the night sky, the stars were shining on Sochi.

On a cold and clear night in a palm lined city that would look more at home in Florida than any winter city, a dream seven years in the making was finally realized.

There was only one very obvious glitch, when one of five snowflakes that were supposed to transform into Olympic rings, failed to do so. But that's nothing different from Vancouver, which was no stranger to glitches.

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Olympic area into a Russian Disneyland after the Games. Formula One racing, World Cup soccer and KHL hockey will all come to town, building on the legacy of the brilliantly designed venues in the Olympic village.

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On display was a marvel of architecture, ingenuity and technology, culture and expenditure, as the Olympic Winter Games opened on land that was just barren fields when this plan to bring the pinnacle of Olympic sports to the Black Sea coast was first announced.

And while, there are reports of downtrodden locals showing their disdain for the Olympics and their grandeur, there is also a strong sense of pride among the Russian people for what has been achieved here.

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Russia was awarded the Games in 2007, with the hosts promising to deliver brand new venues for all sports, in two tight clusters, by the sea and in the mountains just an hour away by car or train.

DA DA DA

The Opening Ceremony was befitting a host committee that was willing to spend just about anything to make these Olympic Games not only be happen but be different from any other.

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Putin, for one, and the American team, were not so warmly welcomed, drawing something more like polite applause.

"What took decades in other parts of the world has been achieved here in just seven years. It is a remarkable achievement."

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The depiction of Russian history through a combination of ballet and ultra advanced technology was stunning, from a pirate ship crossing a roiling sea on a giant screen floor, to the Russian Revolution, to the building of Moscow and the Soviet Empire.

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