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Russia officially opens 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

PHOENIX — The 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, were officially opened Friday.

The Opening Ceremony began about 9:15 a.m. Arizona time. Sochi is 11 hours ahead of the Valley.

Just after the sun set over the Caucasus Mountains and along the seashore just outside Fisht Stadium in the wet-paint-fresh Olympic Park, Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to a crowd still taking their seats: “Welcome to the center of the universe!”

The ceremony was a celebration of Russia and presented President Vladmir Putin’s version: a country with a rich and complex history emerging confidently from a rocky two decades and now capable of putting on a major international sports event.

Friday also marked the beginning of an Olympics that many fear is subject to a terrorist attack. While thousands of Russian security officers have been brought to the resort town to protect both athletes and spectators from Muslim unrest in Russia.

In what could be the first clear terror threat to the actual games Friday, a passenger attempted to hijack an Istanbul-bound flight, saying there was a bomb on board. He wanted the plane diverted to Sochi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.