The Winter Olympics in Sochi officially got under way on Friday with a lavish opening ceremony designed as a depiction of the history of Russia as seen through the dreams of a young girl - although much of the focus was on the pre-show performance of controversial pop act t.A.T.u.

The duo, Lena Katina and Julia Volkova, sang a Russian version of their hit single "Not Gonna Get Us", holding hands on the stage and surrounded by Games volunteers. The single, which reached number seven in the UK charts in 2003, lyrically depicted the pair as teenage runaways-in-love.

t.A.T.u.'s image appears to directly contradict Russia's hard-line laws on "non-traditional" sexuality, which are widely seen as an attack on gay rights.

The ceremony at the Fisht Olympic Stadium began at 2014 local time (1614GMT) to signal the official start of the Games in the south-west coastal resort, which have cost Russia £30billion to stage.

Organisers labelled Friday night's opening ceremony, which focuses on both the past and future of Russia and has a young girl named Lubov - meaning Love - in the central role, as "the most complex and ambitious technical show ever attempted in Olympic history".

Entitled Dreams of Russia, it started with the Russian alphabet being shown on screens around the stadium, and will also incorporate historical figures, mythological images and Russian dance.

Former world heavyweight champion boxer Nikolai Valuev makes an appearance as a character in one of the segments.

The ceremony then finishes with the traditional lighting of the Olympic Flame.

In the middle of the show comes the athletes' parade, with Team GB being led by flagbearer Jon Eley.

Sochi 2014 organisers said 66 leaders including heads of state and international organisations would attend the ceremony, with United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and the respective leaders of China and Japan joining Russian president Vladimir Putin.

But a number of world leaders were notably not attending, including Barack Obama, David Cameron and Angela Merkel.