Some 60,600 awe-struck spectators served as extras in a majestic three-hour movie of sorts, officially opening the XXI Olympic Winter Games Friday night at the dazzling ice-blue wonderland otherwise known as B.C. Place.
Sporting greats Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene, Catriona LeMay Doan and Rick Hansen teamed up to light the Olympic cauldron, ending a 106-day, 45,000-kilometre torch adventure that officially began in Greece.
The opening ceremony featured paper snowflakes, incredible music and dance, and Hollywood-like laser and light shows. Fans, who paid up to $600 for a ticket, participated like they were in an audition, showing precision and style when instructed by volunteers.
Olympics CEO John Furlong, who called the Games a unique magic, invited the world to share and experience what it feels like to be a proud Canadian. He urged the athletes to inspire the youth of the planet through their ultra talents.
“You are role models for our children – heroes, giants, human champions, the best ever,” said Furlong.
“You are living proof that men and women everywhere are capable of doing great good and that in life, as it is in sport, we should always give our best and never, ever give up.”
Montreal teen jazz-pop sensation Nikki Yanofsky, wearing a stunning bright red dress, delivered a stirring rendition of O Canada to jumpstart the extravaganza.
Seconds later, a snowboarder soared off a makeshift jump after the crowd held up flashlights to signify the final 10 second countdown to the ceremony. Spectators were considered the cast group in the production, using a set of six props activated at key points during the night. They wore white and blue ponchos.
Four gigantic ice-like totem poles then arose in the middle of the stadium and members of Vancouver and Whistler First Nation communities welcomed the world before being joined in colourful dance and song by Aboriginal people from other regions of Canada.
As is Games’ custom, Team Greece was the first of 82 participating nations to stroll into the stadium for the 48-minute parade of athletes, dwarfed by a backdrop of the 23-feet high, internally-lit Olympic rings.
The loudest cheer, of course, came for Team Canada, led by speed skater Clara Hughes. Just about all the spectators waived tiny Canadian flags and screamed support as the red-clad home country’s finest waved back in thanks.
B.C. rockers Bryan Adams, clad in a blue blazer and tie, and Nelly Furtado, wearing a form-fitting, partially strapless royal blue dress, quickly emerged on the centre platform and shook the roof with an energized Bang The Drum.
Huge images, ranging from a polar bear to the Northern Lights to Orca whales swimming in the Pacific Ocean and orange maple leafs, nicely complemented some beautiful artistic dance and acrobatics by the Alberta Ballet. Sarah McLachlan’s sweet sounds on Sacred Grove and Ordinary Miracle added further life to the Landscape of
Featured fiddler Ashley MacIsaac woke up the neighbours in Yaletown, False Creek and Chinatown as the musical play hit a super-charged speed.
Skiers and boarders, hanging by rope from the ceiling, turned in gold-medal tricks down a mountain face which also served as a monster screen showing highlights of various winter sports.
Furlong then addressed the world before giving the floor to International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.
“And a special thanks to the thousands of Games volunteers for your enthusiasm,” said Rogge.
“Without you, none of this would be
Ryan Nitchie of Armstrong, who is here volunteering at the Athletes Village, got a double-dose of the opening ceremony.
“During the entire ceremony I was teary eyed,” said the grocery store clerk and city
“I am a very proud Canadian, but as a ‘good Canadian’, I don’t wear my patriotism on my sleeve. Watching the opening ceremonies rehearsal live at B.C. Place was like permission to be proud of my country, province and community…Seeing the opening ceremonies made me appreciate and feel thankful that I am part of hosting the world at the Olympics.”