It could not have been more stunning. With the sunlight bouncing off crisp, white, mountain peaks, Briton Billy Morgan and his flying snowboard went spinning beneath an azure sky, a goodly morning crowd gasped with delight and Vladimir Putin's Winter Olympics were launched here yesterday in just the perfect picture-postcard manner he doubtless always envisaged.
No barking about stray dogs being rounded up, no talk of gay rights protests, the suffocating security fears forgotten and a wonderful escape from half-built hotels for visitors. Just pure and simple Olympian competition. No wonder the organisers wanted the Games to begin before the flame was even lit in tonight's opening ceremony. Sport can be a wonderful distraction from real life.
On television, the snapshots of the opening slopestyle competition must have wooed the world. At the bottom of the hill at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, athletes were queuing to say how great the course and the atmosphere were and it was easy to get the feel that the Sochi Games may end up after this two-week showcase looking finer and more spectacular than any of their predecessors.
Each venue sparkles. The stadiums are pristine. The scale of the enterprise is monstrous and you realise again what pounds 30?billion, the most that any single man can ever have found for a personal vanity project, can buy.
Yet, even though Putin may have astonishingly created a made-for-TV fairytale Olympics to showcase his "new" Russia, there has been nothing so far that convinces you that any amount of his roubles will make this a feelgood, joyful Games.
Of course, first impressions can be very misleading, as the false start to Vancouver's superb edition of four years ago demonstrated, but the initial feel at a Winter Games which, for the first time in 30 years, yesterday managed to eliminate a bunch of athletes before the event had officially even opened, is that it is a very odd, artificial creation, certainly the strangest of the 11 Olympics I have attended.
These days, every Games project is so invasive that it seems bound to create a disconnect with the locals. Yet in Sochi's case, that divide feels monumental as, even today, the workforce seem harassed in trying to rush the completion of Putin's improbable dream. Step out of Rosa Khutor and slide back down to what is supposed to be the hub of the mountain venues operation in Krasnaya Polyana and it is weird just how quiet and soulless the place feels. And unfinished.
The Olympic Village accommodation, according to Mike Hay, the British team's chef de mission, has been excellent, which, of course, is the key to making it an 'athletes' Games'. Yet a great Games needs to embrace its own and visitors too, as well as the athletes, and it is still staggering that a huge element of the supporting infrastructure, such as the media villages and hotels, will not have been completed by the time the event even finishes. Never mind Athens; this has been Olympic brinkmanship of a new order.
You cannot help wondering where we are going to find the vibrant heart of Sochi's Games. Perhaps only at the venues themselves. For it is difficult to discern much excitement among the locals here. Perhaps they have just become too weary of the sacrifices.
Wandering into a new shopping mall in Krasnaya Polyana, which like so much of the supporting Olympic infrastructure here is supposedly open for business but evidently still being built, the place had been plunged into darkness because of another power failure. A guard just shrugged. This was nothing. People in Sochi and surrounds have, on too many countless occasions these past few years, had to live without electricity or water because of the building demands.
Creating Russia's biggest amusement park, organising the world's most enormous snow-making operation and delivering a pounds 5?billion road and railway link is all very well but what price that their only real post-Games legacy may be to get light back into their lives?
The strange thing, as you take the 30-mile ride on the road which, as the joke here goes, cost even more to build than it would have if organisers had decided to pave the entire route from the Black Sea to the mountains with finest Beluga caviar, is just how empty and eerie the route feels, with so little traffic around and only the occasional foreboding glimpse of the security forces.
The protective bubble here seems so vast, covering an area of 1,500 square miles, and so seemingly empty that, once you are inside, it is easy to forget all the dire warnings, such as the recent one from a noted security expert in America who said "it's not a matter of whether there will be some incident, it's just a matter of how bad it's going to be".
Yesterday, the deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak, insisted "there is no reason to believe that the level of danger in Sochi is greater than at any other point on the planet, be it Boston, London, New York or Washington". Yet the fact that the latest warnings from Washington - that toothpaste tubes could be used to smuggle bomb-making materials on to a Russian-bound plane - were being discussed on the eve of the Games give an indication that security is still the one issue that really dominates here. No visitor resents it; it is just that rings of this sort of steel do not lend themselves easily to a festival feel inside.
Only great sport, and in particular, great home performances will be a guarantee of that. When the national figure skating hero Yevgeny Plushenko last night brought the house down here in the Iceberg Skating Palace with one of his old show-stopping routines in the new team event, it felt as if a flame had already been ignited.
For Putin will expect Russia's athletes to deliver after their pitiful three golds in Vancouver, their worst Winter Olympics performance. If not, he says, he will be happy if they just "fight to the end".
Really? Of course, nobody believes that. That vision of the hosts' success on the ice and snow runs hand in hand with the picture of him as the inspirational leader who delivered a safe, controversy-free Games and as the producer of the coolest TV show sport has witnessed. He cannot afford to fail; otherwise Sochi may be recalled only as Putin's grand folly.