The 21st Winter Olympics Begins Amdist Much Pomp And a Little Sorrow
Vancouver had a hard act to follow after Beijing's spectacular 2008 opening ceremony which cost $100mm USD. However last night, the Canadian city showed the world that it can put up as good a show, even on the 'shoestring' budget of $40mm USD.
The indoor event, which attracted 60,000 live spectators and millions on television, began with beautiful fireworks and a dramatic entry by a snowboarder, who leaped through the Olympic ring and welcomed the visitors to the games. Next came the Canadian flag, brought in by the Mounties, Canada's National Policemen.
Following the national anthem was a welcome by the four first host nations and then, the famous Parade of Nations. The crowd cheered as the 2,500 athletes from 82 countries walked across the stadium before settling down to enjoy the rest of the show.
First emerged a White stage rising amid four giant totem poles. As a Canadian Inuit pounded the ground, a giant spirit bear appeared out of thin air and began floating in the air. Suddenly the 'ice' floor cracked and out came pouring the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans complete with realistic-looking Orca whales.
Then, magically the ocean floor was replaced by a grove of trees and covered with reddish brown maple leaves. While entertainers performed a lively jig, the serene scene was replaced by a storm from which rose the Canadian Rocky mountains upon which skiers and snowboarders performed ariel stunts.
The grande finale was the delivery of the Olympic flag and the lighting of the cauldron, performed by some of Canada's star athletes, which included ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
While everything went well, and the crowd cheered their hearts out for their respective countries, there was an overwhelming sadness that permeated the ceremony. That's because earlier in the day, 21-year old Nodar Kumaritashvili from Georgia lost his life after he lost control while practicing on the Luge track. All through the evening, the audience and athletes played homage to this young man in various ways, including observing a minute of silence at the end of the ceremony.
sources:cbc.ca,dailymail.co.uk, the province.com