The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, carried the Olympic torch on the final leg of its 45,000-kilometer journey last night in Vancouver, and with the help of three other world-class athletes ignited a towering cauldron inside BC Place.
Gretzky was joined by Olympic double gold medalist speed skater Catriona LeMay Doan, basketball star Steve Nash, and 1968 Olympic ski gold medalist Nancy Greene in the ceremony, which culminated three hours of festivities to kick off the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Gretzky then lit the outdoor flame visible to all for the duration of the Games.
The Olympic flag was carried into the stadium by Betty Fox, mother of cancer research fund raiser Terry Fox; actor Donald Sutherland, former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve; former Olympic figure skating champion Barbara Ann Scott; singer Anne Murray; author and humanitarian Romeo Dallaire; hockey legend Bobby Orr, and astronaut Julie Payette.
Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed during a training run earlier in the day at Whistler Sliding Centre, and his death added a somber note to the opening ceremonies.
Canadian authorities said, "It appears after a routine run, the athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not compensate properly to make correct entrance into curve 16. This resulted in a late entrance into curve 16 and although the athlete worked to correct the problem he eventually lost control of the sled resulting in the tragic accident. The technical officials of the FIL (International Luge Federation) were able to retrace the path of the athlete and concluded there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.
"Based on these findings the race director, in consultation with the FIL, made the decision to reopen the track following a raising of the walls at the exit of curve 16 and a change in the ice profile. This was done as a preventative measure, in order to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again."
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said, "Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete. The whole Olympic Family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games."
Six medal events take place today, Saturday, Feb. 13: ski jumping (normal hill); men's downhill skiing; men's 5,000 meter speed skating; women's 7.5k sprint biathlon; men's 1,500 meter speed skating; women's freestyle moguls.
Five medal events take place tomorrow, Sunday Feb. 14: men's 10k sprint biathlon; women's 3,000 meter speed skating; Nordic combined - individual normal hill jumping, 10k cross country; men's singles luge; and men's freestyle moguls. Women's super combined slalom was postponed from tomorrow because weather forced cancellation of training, and will be rescheduled.