After much speculation, idolized hockey hero Wayne Gretzky lit the outdoor cauldron to officially mark the start of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The Great One was escorted from BC Place through the rainy Vancouver night, eventually putting his torch to the 0utdoor cauldron and igniting the hopes and aspirations of Canadians across the country.
Inside BC Place, Rick Hansen, Catriona LeMay Doan, Nancy Greene, Steve Nash and Gretzky collectively took part in the lighting of the indoor cauldron despite some technical issues.
The goal was to have each athlete light a single pillar, or arm, carrying the flame up to the main cauldron. But due to mechanical malfunction the fourth arm failed to deploy, causing an awkward delay and a missed opportunity for LeMay Doan, who was robbed of her moment in Canadian history.
In the opening video, a snowboarder was shown rushing down a Whistler mountainside, listing off Winter Games of the past as he made his way towards BC Place. Once inside the arena, he launched himself off a ramp and through the Olympic rings as pyrotechnics shot off in unison—he even stuck the landing.
Shortly after, as political dignitaries took their seats, the Canadian Honour Guards raised the flag while Nikki Yanofsky belted out a unique rendition of ‘O Canada’.
If the anthem was written by today’s standards of pop-music, then this was a brilliant performance. But it certainly was not the traditional classroom sing-a-long version of our national song.
But all was shortly forgotten as the attention was turned to the athletes.
Prior to the introduction of the competitors, representatives of Canada’s First Nations groups skipped, danced and stomped their way into the arena, keeping a frenetic pace throughout the ceremony.
Continuing Olympic tradition, Greece was the first to enter the stadium, followed by 83 nations, many for the first time, as they made their way into the arena, proudly waving their respected flags.
And then, the big moment.
Anticipation was mounting, the energy was pulsating and the flag appeared from the tunnel, igniting the crowd—you could feel the march of the athletes.
Canadians wore black slacks and maple leaf red jackets with fur-trimmed hoods. Black and red lumberjack style scarves and matching red, white and black toques topped off the ensemble.
Once the athletes had taken their seats, Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams took the stage to sing ‘Bang The Drum’, though the performance sounded pre-recorded at times and did not live up to the expectations.
Next was a series of visual presentations, touching on Canadian heritage and history. Canada showcased its beautiful natural wonders from the barren yet noble Arctic landscape to the Northern lights.
Sarah McLachlan followed with the first ‘live’ performance of the night, delighting the crowd with a rendition of her inspirational melody ‘Ordinary Miracles’.
A symbolic ballet demonstrated the transitioning relationship between man and Canada’s forests and wildlife while Ashley Macissac headlined Canada’s fiddle traditions with an energetic performance.
Also honoured were great Canadians such as Betty Fox, Bobby Orr, Barbara Ann Scott, Jacques Villeneuve, Romeo Dallaire, Julie Payette, Ann Murray and Donald Sutherland.
After several more eye-appeasing performances, Jacques Rogge of the IOC and John Furlong, VANOC chief, delivered sombre speeches before Governor General Michelle Jean officially opened the Games.
Both Rogge and Furlong were gracious yet brief in honouring the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.
Yanofsky wrapped up the opening ceremonies with the official Olympic theme, ‘I Believe’.