SOCHI, Russia — Things you'll want to know about the 2014 Winter Olympics.
SECURITY: It's foremost on many minds as Olympic competition begins and thousands stream into the Black Sea resort city. The Russian government says it's doing all it can to ensure safety, and on Thursday a deputy prime minister went even further. "We can guarantee the safety of the people as well as any other government hosting a mass event," said Dmitry Kozak.
TOOTHPASTE: It's the latest item to fall under scrutiny after the U.S. Homeland Security Department warned airlines flying to Russia that terrorists might try to smuggle explosives on board hidden in toothpaste tubes. The threat was passed on to airlines that have direct flights to Russia, including some that originate in the United States, a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press.
SNOWBOARDING: It begins, but without marquee name Shaun White, the world's most famous snowboarder. He pulled out of slopestyle, a new Olympic event, to concentrate on the halfpipe, where he'll have a chance to win his third straight title next week. After practice slopestyle runs, White said: "The potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on."
WORLD LEADERS: It's a record, says the Sochi Olympics' chief organizer: Sixty-five heads of state and government and international organizations will be attending Russia's first Winter Games. Dmitry Chernyshenko says that's more than any other Winter Olympics and three times the number of leaders who attended the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Here's who you won't see, though: President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck.
OPENING APPROACHES: Friday night's opening ceremony will showcase Russia to the world on its own terms — a storyline intended to impress the many nations in attendance and allow President Vladimir Putin to put forth the message he's been trumpeting for months now: that his country has successfully combined its storied history with modern innovation and is ready for anything. The intended audience is as much Russians as it is the rest of the world.