Canada unveils its 'landscape of dreams' to welcome athletes and world at the
Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

Update: Changes to Opening Ceremony

Out of respect for Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili, who passed away in a tragic accident earlier today at The Whistler Sliding Centre, flags were lowered to half-mast during the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The Georgian National Olympic Committee and its athletes wore black armbands and a black mark was placed on the Georgian flag to symbolize their mourning. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, on behalf of the IOC, International Federations (IF) and VANOC, made a statement about the athlete's untimely death and expressed sincere condolences.

VANCOUVER, Feb. 12 /CNW/ - "We are an idea in the process of being realized / we are young / we are cultures strung together then woven into a tapestry / and the design is what makes us more than the sum total of our history / we are an experiment going right for a change / with influences that range from a to zed / and yes we say zed instead of zee / we are the true north / strong and free / and what's more / is that we didn't just say it / we made it be."

With these words as part of We Are More, a powerful contemporary ode on patriotism by Canadian slam poet Shane Koyczan, Canada welcomed the world's best winter athletes to Vancouver tonight at the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

David Atkins, executive producer and artistic director, and Ignatius Jones, artistic director, created and produced the ceremony with a Canadian and international artistic team including director of design Doug Paraschuk, director of music Dave Pierce and director of choreography Jean Grand-Maître.

Symposiums with Canadians from across the country guided the process and created the defining framework: "Canada is an adventure that has just begun - compassionate and creative, subtle and courageous, innovative and daring. Canada is fire in the ice."

The wardrobe for many of the headliners was created by Canadian international fashion designers Dean and Dan Caten of Dsquared2.

The night's celebrations started with a daring jump by snowboarder Johnny Lyall through a giant set of Olympic Rings as the live audience was engaged in the dramatic countdown to the start of the ceremony.

As an estimated global audience of more than a billion watched, members of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh - the Four Host First Nations - welcomed the world to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games through speakers Levi Nelson, Lil'wat, Quelemia Sparrow, Musqueam, Shamantsut, Squamish, and Dennis Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh.

Surrounded by four welcome poles, one for each of the Four Host First Nations, more than 300 young First Nations, Inuit and Métis performers danced in an unprecedented gathering of Aboriginal youth from every region and language family within Canada, sharing their rich and diverse culture amongst themselves and with the world.

More than 2,600 athletes from 82 National Olympic Committees entered the stadium led by their country's flagbearer. All teams were greeted warmly by the audience with a particularly enthusiastic welcome to the home team from Canada. Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado, the first of many headliners involved in the event, paid tribute to the athletes in the high-energy duet Bang the Drum.

With the theme "landscape of a dream," the audience was transported across Canada, from the Prairies to the peaks of mountain tops, the depths of the ocean, and through its varied seasons as BC Place transformed into different landscapes through images projected onto all surfaces, including the building's roof fabric, stages, screens, and members of the audience dressed all in white. Poetry, recited throughout the ceremony by renowned Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, added depth to the show.

In a remarkable transition, a night sky filled with the shimmering aurora borealis (northern lights), constellations and an enormous spirit bear gave way to ocean depths as a pod of orca whales migrated across the stage, spraying water from their blowholes.

Later, in a sequence inspired by Canadian artist Emily Carr, ancient totem poles were transformed into a towering stand of Douglas firs. Members of the Alberta Ballet and a corp of local dancers, performed beneath the towering leafy boughs as Sarah McLachlan performed Ordinary Miracle.

Loreena McKennitt added a Celtic lilt to the evening with her performance of The Old Ways on a Gaelic harp. Moments later amid a carpet of red maple leafs, Cape Breton's Ashley MacIsaac and tap soloist Brock Jellison added some heat into the night as over 200 tap dancers and dancing fiddlers, created an explosive, fiery beat. Keeping the rhythm at a pace were fiddlers Calvin Vollrath, André Brunet, Daniel Lapp, Samantha Robichaud, Sierra Noble, and April Verch.

The song Both Sides Now by revered singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell accompanied a solo performance by aerialist and École nationale de cirque student Thomas Saulgrain, who soared through a field of golden wheat, inspired by the Canadian classic W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind.

As the night continued, a flock of doves created through light rose skyward as k.d. lang sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, Garou urged the athletes to aim Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin (A Little Higher, A Littler Farther) and soprano Measha Brueggergosman powered through the Olympic Anthem as the Olympic flag was raised. Montreal singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky, 16, also lent her talents to O Canada with the raising of the Canadian flag.

The Olympic Flag was carried into BC Place by eight notable Canadians: humanitarian Romeo Dallaire; Betty Fox, mother of cancer activist Terry Fox; world renowned singer Anne Murray; champion ice hockey player Bobby Orr; astronaut Julie Payette; Olympic gold medal figure skater Barbara Ann Scott; internationally acclaimed actor Donald Sutherland; and world champion Formula 1 driver Jacques Villeneuve.

John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), encouraged the athletes to seize the moment while competing at Canada's Games to dream big and inspire the youth of the world.

"You are role models for our children - heroes, giants, champions - the best ever. You are living proof that men and women everywhere are capable of doing great good and that in life as it is in sport we should always give our best and never ever give up," he said.

"From whatever continent you have come, we welcome you to Canada - a country with a generous heart. We love that you are here. You are among good friends. Vous êtes parmis vos amis."

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michäelle Jean, Governor General of Canada officially declared the XXI Olympic Winter Games open as she joined Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the chiefs of the Four Host First Nations, in watching the evening's celebration.

"Here we are, back in Canada, for the third time in the history of the Olympic Games. After Montreal and Calgary, it is now the turn of the West Coast of this wonderful sports loving nation to host the world's athletes. Thank you Canada for this great loyalty to the Olympic ideals," said President Rogge.

"Dear athletes, these Games belong to you ... so give them the magic that we all desire through your performances and your conduct. Remember that you are role models for the youth of the world. There is no glory without responsibility."

The ceremony concluded with five notable Canadian athletes, performing the final leg of the torch relay.

Rick Hansen, Canada's Man in Motion, passed off the flame to Catriona LeMay Doan (multiple Olympic gold medallist in speed skating) who, along with Steve Nash (Olympian and National Basketball Association MVP), Nancy Greene Raine (Olympic gold medallist in alpine skiing) and Wayne Gretzky (one of the most honoured hockey players of all time) lit a contemporary cauldron that emerged from the field of play.

To ensure the Olympic Flame burns for the full 17 days of the Games, an external cauldron was ignited by Gretzky who carried the flame from BC Place to the Vancouver waterfront. Framed by the mountains and the waters of Burrard Inlet, the cauldron will serve as a lasting legacy of the 2010 Winter Games and late VANOC chairman Jack Poole.

"You might say the home of the Rocket and the Great One / who inspired little number nines/and little number ninety-nines / but we're more than just hockey and fishing lines/off of the rocky coast of the Maritimes / and some say what defines us / is something as simple as please and thank you / and as for you're welcome / well we say that too / but we are more / than genteel or civilized / we are an idea in the process / of being realized." - Shane Koyczan

About VANOC

VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit www.vancouver2010.com.

SOURCE VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

For further information: For further information: Media Contact: VANOC Communications, Tel: (604) 403-1611, E-mail: mediarelations@vancouver2010.com

Organization Profile

VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

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