The official 16-day competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics begins Saturday when gold medals in five sports will be contested.
The Games in Russia’s Black Sea resort city kicked off Friday with a glitzy opening ceremony featuring Russian music, ballet stars, acrobats and cosmonauts.
Brand new Fisht Olympic Stadium, which holds 40,000 people, hosted the ceremony. Organizers hope the event will paint a shining image of Russia.
Athletes from the more than 80 nations competing in Sochi filled the stadium. The lighting of the Olympic torch and fireworks lit the night sky to culminate the event.
More than 40 world leaders attended the ceremony, but U.S. President Barack Obama and some European Union leaders were absent. Russia has faced criticism of its law banning the spread of so-called “gay propaganda” to minors.
Security is tight in and around the Olympic Village, with authorities on guard for possible terrorist attacks.
Security was also bolstered around the Kremlin in anticipation of possible Olympics-related protests.
The United States has issued a travel alert for all citizens heading to Russia, urging them to remain attentive in regards to personal security at all times.
It also alerts Americans to be aware of the Russian law banning gay propaganda, calling it vague.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says it is unfair to single out the Sochi Games as facing a particular security threat. He said terror threats were made at other Olympics, including Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, and Salt Lake City in 2002.
Bach also said preparations for the Games are going “pretty smoothly,” but that the first few days of the Games usually have “a small hiccup here or there.”
Russian authorities have spent an estimated $2 billion to shore up security in advance of the Sochi Olympics. Islamic militants have threatened attacks, and analysts have singled out train stations and other areas where civilians congregate as possible targets.