Opening ceremonies secrets leak out

Final torchbearer still subject of great speculation

By BOB MACKIN , QMI Agency

Secrets of the 2010 Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony are slowly emerging with less than a week to go.

The Feb. 12 B.C. Place Stadium event will feature a cauldron on a hydraulic lift in the middle of the air-supported dome’s new false-floor. Various trap-doors have been built for performers to pop up and down. Performers have been outfitted in lumberjack and voyageur costumes and a canoe will appear to fly above the audience. VANOC volunteers were each offered a ticket to the Feb. 10 dress rehearsal and are allowed to buy an additional ticket for $50.

The biggest secret is the identity of the final torchbearer. Speculation has run rampant that it may be hockey hero Wayne Gretzky. Documents from federal government brainstorming sessions in 2006 proposed an aboriginal athlete, similar to Sydney 2000 where aborigine sprinter Cathy Freeman lit the cauldron. The Vancouver opening ceremony producer is Australian David Atkins, who was involved in 2000.

Preparations for the biggest live TV production in Canadian history have not been without challenges.

Trusses for lights and speakers have caused stress on the 27-year-old roof. Crews with contractor Riggit are on-call around the clock in case of a rainstorm to stop water from pooling on the 27-year-old fabric roof. A panel on the fabric roof inverted during a Jan. 14 downpour and flooded into the stadium like a waterfall.

A performer who was portraying a ski jumper crashed during a rehearsal earlier this week, but details are slim because of VANOC’s information blackout about the ceremony.

“The injuries are not life-threatening and the performer is in recovery,” said VANOC communications vice-president Renee Smith-Valade, who declined to offer further details.

WorkSafeBC spokeswoman Donna Freeman said via email: “There was no inspection report issued in this case; no compliance orders were issued. A safety officer did meet with the employer.”

Some stadium workers, however, may not have the Olympic spirit after 380 were given layoff notices this week. The stadium will close April 7 for up to 18 months while a $458 million retractable roof is installed.

POLL