|Chinese President Xi Jinping (front, 3rd L) attends the opening ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 7, 2014. The 22nd Winter Olympic Games opened on Friday night in a spectacular ceremony. Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the ceremony at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)
SOCHI, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- The 22nd Winter Olympic Games opened on Friday night in a spectacular ceremony which was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the invitation of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Putin declared the Games open at the Fisht Olympic Stadium following a speech by Olympic chief Thomas Bach, who stressed "the Olympics are about building bridges to bring people together."
President Xi rose from his seat and waved to the Chinese delegation which was led into the stadium by star figure skater and flagbearer Tong Jian in the athletes parade.
Russia, for the second time, was President Xi's first foreign destination of a year. In March 2013, Xi took a state visit to Russia a few days after he took office as Chinese President.
Xi's appearance at the Sochi Olympic opening ceremony was the first attendance by a Chinese president at a major overseas sports event, signaling China's strong support for the Olympics and Russia's efforts to host the Games.
On Thursday, Xi met Putin for talks on bilateral relations as the two leaders reviewed the achievements in the China-Russia ties in the past year, made strategic plans for the bilateral cooperation in the new year and reached important consensuses on the strategic coordination on major international and regional issues.
China sent a 138-member delegation including 65 athletes to the first ever winter Olympics held in Russia. The Chinese athletes will compete in alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, speed skating, short track speed skating, figure skating, snowboard and curling.
The Chinese president met Chinese athletes and coaches earlier in the day, giving a boost to their morale.
"The Chinese people are paying great attention to you," he told the delegates, noting that they traveled a long journey to this Russian resort city for the event during the Spring Festival.
China, Xi said, has made significant progress in sports over the past years and made breakthroughs in some winter sports, but still lags behind in some others.
By delivering a successful Beijing Olympics, the Chinese people have realized their Olympic dream, the president said, while calling for continued efforts to make China a strong sports power.
Xi wished the athletes success at the Games, but added that good results are not reflected merely in the number of medals, but more in the Olympic spirit they demonstrate by constantly improving and excelling themselves.