Winter Olympics begin as dozy Vladimir Putin snubs Ukraine

Fireworks mark opening ceremony at Beijing Winter Olympics

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As the athletes strode into the dramatic Bird’s Nest arena, the Russian President appeared to fall asleep. Mr Putin, whose own athletes are banned from the Games for historic doping, has massed more than 100,000 troops on Russia’s border with Ukraine. He was among a few foreign dignitaries, the only spectators as fireworks soared over the opening ceremony.

The 80,000-seater Beijing National Stadium was left otherwise empty, as officials complied with China’s strict Covid curbs. Mr Putin’s snooze came after Chinese leader Xi Jinping received a standing ovation as he arrived to watch the 3,000 performers.

The ceremony included marching soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army hoisting China’s flag as its national anthem – March of the Volunteers – played.

Film director Zhang Yimou masterminded the event, making Beijing the first city to host both summer and winter Olympics.

Team GB is 50-strong and hopes are high of topping the five medals won at the last Games. Charlotte Bankes is tipped as our best hope of a gold, in the snowboard cross. The squad was led into the venue by Union Jack flag bearers skier Dave Ryding and curler Eve Muirhead.

Olympics equestrian Princess Anne, left, urged Team GB to “enjoy”, adding: “You’ve all worked incredibly hard for this moment, overcoming the additional hurdles during these challenging times.”

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