Opening ceremonies for the 2014 Olympics in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi have begun, marking the official start of the Sochi Winter Games.
The 40,000 seat Fisht Olympic Stadium, a venue built for the Sochi Games, is hosting the spectacular two-and-a-half hour ceremony.
More than 40 heads of state and leaders from around the world are there, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. U.S. President Barack Obama and some European Union leaders are absent. Russia has faced criticism of its law banning the spread of so-called "gay propaganda" to minors.
Athletes from the 88 nations competing in Sochi are marching into the stadium.
Security remained tight Friday in and around the Olympic village, with authorities on guard for possible terrorist attacks.
However, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said it is unfair to single out the Sochi Games as facing a particular security threat. He said terrorist threats were made at other Olympics, including Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, and Salt Lake City in 2002.
Security was also bolstered around the Kremlin in anticipation of possible protests related to the Sochi Olympics.
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." He did not say what those problems might be.
Qualifying rounds began Thursday in several sports, including the team figure skating competition, a new team gold medal event at the Winter Olympics. Official competition begins on Saturday.
Russian authorities have spent an estimated $2 billion to shore up security in advance of the Sochi Olympics. Analysts have warned of possible attacks against targets such as train stations.