The 2014 Olympic Games begin with an image remake for Russia


The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014.


REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

The flame over the Olympic cauldron has been lit. And Russian President Vladimir Putin finally had his moment Friday, declaring the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi officially open.

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Putin and Russia have a lot at stake in these Games. At a cost of $51 billion and counting, these are the most expensive Olympics ever.

But it's more than that.

This is, after all, the first time the country hosts the Olympics since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The mood in Sochi earlier was joyful and celebratory as more than 3,000 athletes paraded during the opening ceremony.

But what's the mood in Russia's capital? That's the question we put to freelance journalist Charles Maynes in Moscow.

"Actually it's surprisingly quiet," he says. "It almost seems as though the capital isn't paying much attention to the Olympics."

It’s not all that shocking that people in a metropolis have better things to do than watch people zoom headfirst down a mountain on a sled. But the Games, in many ways, are important for the country and those who run it.

Maynes says it’s an image makeover for Russia. And it started with the opening ceremony.

"It's a bit like watching history collapse in on itself," he says. It's all sorts of Russian history and culture combined into one event.

Maynes says the ceremonies were beautiful and that it almost made him forget the country's stance on human rights, gay rights, environmental issues, and corruption.

Maybe that’s the Kremlin's hope.