A somber Georgian team participated in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic games last night. Earlier in the day one of their team members, Nodar Kumaritashvili, suffered a fatal accident on the luge course at The Whistler Sliding Centre. Flags were lowered to half-mast at the center during the Opening Ceremony. During the ceremony the Georgian National Olympic Committee and its athletes wore black armbands, and a black strip was added to the Georgian flag.
The Opening Ceremony began with snowboarder Johnny Lyall soaring through the Olympic Rings inside BC place. The feat exhibited the daring and exuberance of the Olympic athletes such as defending champion Shaun White.
This year the parade of countries took place before the beginning of the cultural ceremonies giving the athletes an opportunity to enjoy the festivities. Eighty-two countries with more than 2,600 athletes are participating in the Olympic Winter Games.
Overall the Ceremony depicted and honored Canada's indigenous people, their role in Canada's history, and current events. The indigenous people entered BC place first. They wore traditional costumes and performed traditional dances throughout the parade of nations. The respect paid to the indigenous population by the Olympic Committee and Canada was in stark contrast to the way in which many other nations treat their indigenous peoples.
Artistic directors David Atkins and Ignatius Jones provided an entertaining Opening Ceremony. They incorporated and leaned heavily on Canada’s indigenous populations and their beliefs. Through HD cameras, flat screen technology, and props, Atkins presented the Canadian landscape. He presented the aurora borealis, glaciers, ice floes, prairies, and burning orange fall colors. He created of a 3-D representation of a pod of orcas swimming through an ice-choked ocean on the arena stage. The orcas morphed into bright pink salmon that swam upstream to the ceiling. This astounding display awed the audience.
The ceremony called upon a number of Canada’s performing artists of both dance and music. Donald Sutherland provided some of the audio narration. Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado performed a duet of "Bang the Drum." The talented Sarah McLachlan played the piano and sang "Ordinary Miracle."
The orcas and salmon were impressive, and Sarah McLachlan's performance enjoyable. However the fiddler in the canoe hanging in front of the moon leading into an orange fall foliage display seemed a bit like a bad acid trip. The announcer claimed this part of the performance was designed while Atkins was enjoying "screech", a rum drink mixed with grain alcohol, in Newfoundland.
More Canadian humanitarians, singers, actors, and sports heroes carried in the Olympic flag: Romeo Dallaire, Betty Fox, Anne Murray, Bobby Orr, Julie Payette, Barbara Ann Scott, Donald Sutherland, and Jacques Villeneuve. Measha Brueggergosman sang the Olympic anthem as the Olympic flag was raised, and 16-year-old Montreal native Nikki Yanofsky performed the Canadian national anthem "O Canada" during the raising of the Canadian flag.
The Opening Ceremony concluded with the lighting of the Olympic cauldrons. Rick Hansen handed the flame to former Canadian Olympic stars: Catriona LeMay Doan, Nancy Greene Raine, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Originally four pillars were to rise. One for each torch bearer, but only three pillars actually rose. This left Doan without a pillar, creating an awkward moment for her. The cauldron was able to work with only three pillars, and few people at the time realized a glitch occurred. In addition to the BC Place cauldron, another cauldron is located near the city center. Gretzky rode in the back of a pickup from BC Place to the city center with the Olympic flame, and lit the additional cauldron. This cauldron will burn throughout the 17 days of the Olympics.