Games open in Canada's wintry indoor paradise

Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:57am EST
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By Mary Milliken

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A snowboarder soared through the Olympic rings and skiers schussed down mountains in the unlikely confines of a stadium as Canada whipped up a wintry wilderness for Friday's opening of the 2010 Winter Games.

Vancouver staged the first indoor opening ceremony in the 86-year history of the Winter Games, an ironic choice for a nation with more outdoors than almost any other place as the world's second largest country.

On the big white canvas of BC Place, Canada painted starry skies, polar bears, blue ice and indigenous icons, with the participation of 60,000 "pixels" (spectators and athletes) to welcome the world to its cold yet coveted paradise.

In what appeared to be the sole glitch of the night, only three of the four giant icicles supporting an Olympic cauldron emerged from the floor.

Famous Canadian athletes lit the incomplete indoor cauldron before ice hockey's "Great One" Wayne Gretzky took the torch outside to ignite the external flame near Vancouver's water front by the Games broadcasting center.

Casting a pall over the start of the February 12-28 Games, however, was the death of a Georgian luge competitor in a horrific training crash on Friday.

In their grief, 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili's team mates marched into the stadium wearing black scarves and armbands to a standing ovation from the crowd. Olympic and Canadian flags were later lowered to half mast.

"May you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and compete with his spirit in your hearts," said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, flanked by International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.   Continued...

<p>A snowboarder soars through the centre ring of the Olympic Rings during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 12, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>