Roar ushers in home Games
But death dampens Olympics celebration
By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency
Canadian Olympic speed skater and cyclist Clara Hughes leads the Canadian team during the athlete’s parade at the opening ceremonies for the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Friday, Feb. 12. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)
VANCOUVER — People were in tears in the morning. And in tears at night.
Different tears. Tears to last for years.
Three-and-a-half billion viewers around the world, including 33 million across Canada and 55,000 in B.C. Place, weren’t sure if that was possible Friday morning, if there could be tears of delight at night.
The stunning death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritshvili in training at Whistler, was expected to cast a pall over the opening ceremony of the XXI Olympic Winter Games. And to some extent, it did.
But it also became an emotional component of the evening without it taking away from the joy of the event.
A minute before the show began, in white letters on a black background on the scoreboard were the
words: “Tonight’s Ceremony is dedicated to the memory of Georgian Olympic athlete Nodar Kumartshvili.”
When Georgia was introduced in the athletes parade, the crowd stood as one and applauded flag-bearer Iason Abramashvili and the six other athletes as they made their way around the stadium and to their seats.
Later in the ceremony, IOC president Jacques Rogge spoke first to acknowledge the Georgian luger. Just before the torch entered the stadium, a moment of silence was held for him and both the Canadian and Olympic flags were lowered to half mast.
The first ever Olympic ceremonies held indoors, were everything they should have been for Canada.
Unbelievably, they managed to more than match the unmatchable Salt Lake 2002 show.
They were wonderful at the beginning and they were wonderful at the end, although with what will become a famous flaw, when the longest torch relay in one country in history came to its conclusion.
Rick Hanson brought the torch into the stadium, where he passed the flame to Catriona Le May Doan, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and, finally, Wayne Gretzky.
The highlight moment of the night wasn’t flawless, as the hydraulics didn’t work to bring one of the ice totems out of the floor. Le May Doan didn’t get the chance to light the cauldren together with Greene, Nash and Gretzky as a result.
Prior to that, Betty Fox, mother of Terry, Donald Sutherland, Barbara Ann Scott, Jacques Villeneuve, Ann Murray, Romeo Dallaire, Bobby Orr and Julie Payette carried the Olympic flag into the stadium and Wickenheiser gave the athletes oath.
Just as memorable was the moment when, just after Uzbekistan had just been introduced, there was a slight delay and a change of music.
Then the roar.
Led by flag bearer and five-time Olympian Clara Hughes, as is the tradition for the host nation, Canada was the 82nd and final country to appear in the faux winter wonderland scene.
On the front row were the two other five-time Olympians, Pierre Lueders and Haley Wickenheiser along with Chandra Crawford, Jeremy Wotherspoon, Francois-Louis Tremblay and chef de mission Nathalie Lambert and her assistants Joey Juneau and Steve Podborski.
The show began with a snowboarder sliding down a slope created in the upper deck and through the Olympic rings.
Four ice totems first emerged with hydraulic assistance from the floor to represent the four host First Nations with a colorful show to precede the parade of athletes.
Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado and k.d. lang sang live and Joni Mitchell’s voice was the background of a memorable sky show within the dome.
It was beginning to end brilliant.
Let the home Games begin.