Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vancouver welcomes the world: 2010 Winter Games declared open

The 2010 Winter Olympics have opened with a spectacular ceremony at Vancouver’s BC Place. The ceremony was held undercover for the first time. Fans, who paid up to $600for a ticket, participated like they were in an audition, showing precision and style when instructed by volunteers.
On a sad note, it was announced seconds before the ceremony started that the night was being dedicated to 21-year-old Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died at Whistler Sliding Centre during training just hours before the Games opened.
The ceremony began with a stunning film of just why Vancouver and Whistler have been chosen as hosts for the 21st Winter Olympics. Stupendous scenery, with a snowboarder atop a snowy peak. He plunges down through the powder, carving arcs of fresh snow and flying off rocks before speeding through a giant red maple leaf made up of torchbearers. In the stadium, he appears below the huge screen and soars off a ramp, through the Olympic rings and into the arena. "Welcome to Vancouver 2010" he cries.
60,000 spectators witnessed 2,500 athletes from 82 nations parade including debutants Cayman Islands, Colombia, Ghana, Pakistan and Peru. The largest cheer was for the host team Canada, with Clara Hughes, defending 5000m speed skating champion wavingthe flag and clad all in red.
The parade was followed by the perfomance of Canadian artists Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado. "Sing something louder, so the whole world can hear..." they sung. The crowd have been given torches and drums and they were all being used at once creating a formidable spectacle.
After that the ceremony continued with the most amazing perfomance: a piece celebrating the northern Canadian lands and peoples. The northern lights were represented by a huge lit-up display suspended in the centre of the arena, with the constellations depicted and the huge 50ft spirit bear of the first people rising from the floor. The sea ice on the floor of the stadium was seen to split up as the peoples were disseminated, before stunning computer graphics showed killer whales, and wild pacific salmon racing upstream. The waters then morph into trees to represent Canada's giant forests. Nova Scotia's three-time Grammy Award winner Sarah McLachlan sang "Ordinary Miracle". A huge harvest moon descended from the roof to depict the Fall and giant red maple leaves fell to the floor. Music and tap-dancing became the center of the show.
From the ice, to the seas and the forests and then to Canada's great prairies.The golden prairie idyll was broken by a great storm and then the Rocky Mountains were born, depicted by huge cloth peaks. Red skiers and boarders descend on wires to denote the sports that we are all here for. Red-clad skaters joined in to circle the Rockies and their energy sparked the transformation of the mountains into a sky-scraper packed neon-lit city. Poet Shane Koyczan performed his "We Are More" poem, an ode which defines Canada.
After the speeches governor general of Canada Michaelle Jean declared open the Games of Vancouver, celebrating the 21st Winter Games. Canadian singer KD Lang sings Hallelujah.
The Olympic flame was jointly lit by four Canadian sports heroes: ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, skier Nancy Greene, speed skater Katrina LeMay Doan, and basketball All-Star Steve Nash ending a 106-day, 45,000-kilometre torch adventure which officially began in Greece. After that, Gretzky made his way to the harbour to light a second cauldron outside in the harbour area which will burn for the 16 days of competition.