VANCOUVER — With the din of Canada's pride careening through domed BC Place like a Rocky Mountain storm, the Winter Olympics began Friday night with history's first indoor opening ceremony, a laser-lit spectacle that — for a few hours, anyway — obscured the troubles already besetting these Games.
The festive mood, and the opening act of a snowboarder's leap through giant Olympic rings, contrasted sharply with the grief that befell the Games earlier in the day when luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a horrific crash on the track at Whistler.
The ceremonies were dedicated to Kumaritashvili, and a moment of silence was observed in his memory. The seven remaining members of the Georgian team, who decided to stay and compete, wore black armbands as they marched behind a black-trimmed flag. Most of the crowd rose to give respectful applause.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and the top Vancouver organizer, John Furlong, urged the athletes to compete in Kumaritashvili's honor: "May you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and compete with his spirit in your heart."
The loudest ovation came midway through the ceremony, when the red-clad Canadian team entered the stadium as the last contingent of the parade of nations. It marched exultantly behind flag-bearer Clara Hughes, defending gold medalist in the 5,000-meter speed skating race. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among the thousands in the stadium rising to applaud.
The ceremony climaxed with the Olympic cauldron scheduled to be lit jointly by four Canadian sports heroes: hockey great Wayne Gretzky, skier Nancy Greene, speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan and NBA All-Star Steve Nash. One of the cauldron lights didn't work, however, so LeMay Doan was stuck posing and holding her torch while the others did the lighting.
Later, a second, far larger cauldron was lit in a plaza along the waterfront, giving Vancouver a visible symbol for the rest of the Games.
Several well-known Canadians carried the Olympic flag into the arena near the end of the ceremony. Among them were hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr, singer Anne Murray and race car driver Jacques Villeneuve.