Famous Canadians Sarah McLachlan, Donald Sutherland and Wayne Gretzky were among those who ushered in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, despite a pause in the proceedings to acknowledge the death of an athlete earlier in the day.
Flags flew at half mast and the Olympic stadium's scoreboard bore a message of dedication to Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died Friday during a practice run. The Georgian delegation wore black armbands in the Parade of Nations.
Jacques Rogge, head of the International Olympic Committee, and John Furlong, president of chief executive of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, began their welcoming remarks with a solemn tribute to Kumaritashvili and Jack Poole, chairman of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, who died in October, just a day after the Olympic flame was lit. "At these Games, you now have the added burden to shine and be united around your fallen colleague Nodar," Furlong said to the athletes. "May you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and may you compete with his spirit in your hearts."
After all 82 nations filed into the stadium, an opening segment featured a welcome ceremony in which the native tribes and aboriginal people of Canada welcomed the world to the Games with specific gestures, songs and dances.
The cultural portion of the ceremonies, narrated by Canadian actor Sutherland, traced the history of the nation, touching on its maritime and alpine history, Quebecois culture, and expansive plains, and also featuring slam poetry by Shane Koyczen, who the event producers discovered on YouTube, according to the NBC telecast.
Canada's most prominent musicians participated as well. McLachlan performed "Ordinary Miracle," Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" scored an interpretive dance performance and k.d. lang sang an impassioned "Hallelujah," a song written by Canadian poet and performer Leonard Cohen.
But it was hockey great Gretzky who ran the final leg of the Olympic torch relay, igniting the stadium's cauldron, despite a technical glitch that left one of the cauldron's four supporting towers inside the stadium floor.
The Winter Games run through Feb. 28 and will be carried in primetime by NBC. Check TVGuide.com for breaking news, TV listings and daily updates.