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Olympics: Putin opens Sochi Winter Olympics

The Sochi Winter Olympics, costing an estimated US$50 billion and with a build-up plagued by political controversy and security fears, were officially opened on Friday.

SOCHI, Russia: The Sochi Winter Olympics, costing an estimated US$50 billion and with a build-up plagued by political controversy and security fears, were officially opened on Friday.

During a spectacular ceremony for the event which runs until February 23, President Vladimir Putin, who has been indelibly linked with the Games from bid to realisation, declared the showpiece on the shores of the Black Sea open.

"I declare the Olympic Games open," Putin told the crowd.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach in his speech warned politicians to leave their bickering out of the Games.

"The Olympics are about building bridges to bring people together. They are not about erecting walls to keep people apart. Embrace human diversity and unity," he said.

"To the political leaders of the world, I say thank you for you supporting your athletes, they are the best ambassadors for your country.

"But please respect their Olympic message of good will, excellence and peace.

"Have the courage to address your disagreements in political dialogue and not on the back of your athletes."

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