Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared the Winter Olympics open at a superlative-filled opening ceremony in Sochi.

Snowflakes transform into four Olympic rings with one failing to form during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Putin said Friday, "I declare the 22nd Winter Olympic Games open."

More than with most games, these Olympics are closely tied to the leader of the host nation. Putin personally pushed for the right to stage them in this Black Sea summer resort and the nearby Caucasus Mountains slopes.

He then spent $51 billion to transform Sochi into a winter sports paradise, in a project fraught with corruption, environmental abuses and fears of terrorism from nearby Chechnya and Dagestan.

President Barack Obama says America "couldn't be prouder of" its athletes who are competing in the Winter Games.

The White House released a brief video of Obama Friday. The president tells the skiers, figure skaters, snowboarders, bobsledders and other members of Team USA that they are an inspiration to the nation.

Obama tells the team America will be watching and rooting for them.

The U.S. has sent some 230 athletes to the Sochi Olympics, the largest delegation ever for any country at the Winter Games.

The Games run through Feb. 23.

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