Olympics: Opening ceremonies ignite Vancouver Games
VANCOUVER (Feb. 12) - With this evening’s spectacular opening ceremonies, the 2010 Vancouver Games have officially begun. And what a show it was.
Complete with giant a polar bear made of lights, tattoo-covered cloggers and a huge list of Canadian celebrities you didn’t know were Canadian, the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies was a feast for the senses.
More than 60,000 spectators, athletes performers and journalists packed downtown Vancouver’s BC Place dome, the largest air-supported domed stadium in North America, for the official kick off of the Winter Olympic Games’ first return to Canada since the 1988 Calgary Games.
Canada’s brightest stars were on hand to give the world a top-notch show before an estimated 3.5 billion television viewers worldwide. Canadian musicians Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado, Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell, K.D. Lang and actor Donald Sutherland represented the country’s cultural talent with performances and appearances.
Of course, Canada’s most famous athletes took center stage. NBA star Steve Nash was one of the last of more than 12,000 torchbearers (the longest domestic Olympic torch relay in history) to carry the Olympic flame, which made its way to Vancouver from Athens, Greece. Nash, along with speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan, skier Nancy Greene and Hockey legend Wayne Gretzsky had the honor of lighting what was supposed to be a four-legged Olympic Cauldron inside the dome. When one of the cauldron ‘s hydraulic legs failed to lift, LeMay Doan was left without a fuse to light.
The show began with a colorful, dancing tribute performed by members of Canada’s four aboriginal nations dressed in traditional robes and feathers.
As tradition dictates, the Greek contingent led the world’s best winter athletes into the stadium.
Whether they were their country’s only representatives or joined by hundreds of countrymen, athletes from countries large and small beamed with the pride of representing their people.
The exciting event turned somber as the seven-member Georgian team entered the stadium wearing black bands in honor of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, who died while training at the Whistler Sliding Center only hours before the ceremonies. The entire audience stood and some banged the provided drums (off cue) to applaud the team of the fallen athlete. Later in the evening, a minute of silence before the Olympic flag was raised further honored the luger.
Ski cross racer and Tahoe, Cali. resident, Errol Kerr wore Jamaica’s green and yellow as well as a huge smile as he represented the one-man Jamaican Ski Team and waved the flag of his father’s tiny island nation. Dartmouth graduate Tucker Murphy was also proud to carry the Bermuda flag.
Luge veteran and five-time Olympian Mark Grimmette of Lake Placid, New York led the American procession (second largest behind Canada) waving old glory. Americans athletes Shaun White, Erik Fisher and Jeret “Speedy” Peterson were looking very Olympic in their Ralph Lauren old-school mountaineering get ups. An injured and still questionable for racing, Lindsey Vonn, as well as some of the racers participants in tomorrow’s men’s downhill watched the proceedings from Whistler.
The crowd, which kept rather quite during the majority of the athlete parade, leapt to deafening applause as the Canadian athletes entered the stadium last. Led by flag bearing speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes, the only athlete ever to win multiple Olympic medals in both the Summer and Winter Games, the Canadian skiers, skaters boarders and sliders brought the house down. As Hughes predicted herself, she was obviously emotional as she led her compatriots into the third Olympic Games on Canadian soil and the first in BC.
The audience, dressed in white and blue paper ponchos to accommodate images projected onto the crowd, also took part in the show, waving flashlights, banging drums and singing along.
When Adams and Furtado took the stage the crowed, including the box containing the Canadian dignitaries and IOC officials, rocked out and banged on cardboard drums. During Lang’s performance the stadium was aglow with electric candles.
The massive stage’s center took on dozens of shapes and images. One minute audience members and TV viewers were swimming with killer whales, the next, they were atop Canada’s Rocky Mountains soaring with flying skiers and snowboarders.
The cauldron lighting ceremony topped off the evening after the flame’s more than 27,000 mile journey across Canada. Gretzsky carried the flame in the back of a truck to ignite a large, outdoor cauldron in Coal Harbor where a fireworks displays lit up the night ski and water below as Vancouverites and visitors from across the globe hit the town start one of the world’s largest parties.
To Ski Racing editors’ dismay, famed Canadian rocker Neil Young was a no show.
Skiing medal competition will begin tomorrow with the men’s downhill and women’s moguls, though rainy conditions have cast some doubt that all of tomorrow’s competition will go off as planned.