Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and IOC president Thomas Bach during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium. EPA/BARBARA WALTON

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee and a 1976 Olympic fencing champion, welcomed the world to the Games and urged the athletes to accept victory and defeat with equal dignity and set an example for a peaceful society.

Speaking alternately in French, English and Russian, the German-born Bach, presiding over his first Olympic Games following his September election, cited the importance of competing “without any form of discrimination for whatever reason.” Sports, he said, is “never about erecting walls to keep people apart” but rather to embrace human diversity.

Bach called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare the Games open. Putin did so in Russian, with an economy of words, having spent $51 billion for the privilege. And fireworks exploded.

The Olympic flag then entered the stadium, borne by actress Chulpan Khamatova, six-time Olympic skating champion Lidiya Skoblikova, journalist Anastasiya Popova, first woman cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, famous ice-hockey player Vyacheslav Fetisov, conductor Valery Gergiyev, cyber-athlete Alan Yenileyev and film director Nikita Mikhalkov.

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