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News about the Summer and Winter Games

Category: Opening Ceremony

Olympic opening ceremony ratings are worthy of a silver medal

According to numbers released by NBC, Friday night's Olympics opening ceremony telecast was the most-watched for a non-U.S.-hosted Winter Games. Thought Vancouver, Canada, is almost U.S., isn't it?

The numbers say 67.5 million viewers watched (word has it some of us even saw it live in places far away from Vancouver like New York but not in places closer to Vancouver like Los Angeles).

If anyone is interested (consider this a shameless plug), here's a link to my Twitter reactions to the ceremony.

But those of us whining about the non-live coverage in the West time zone? NBC will just mock us. According to rankings by time zone Friday night, the two places that didn't get a live broadcast, Mountain and Pacific, had the best ratings:

Mountain Time Zone            21.2/36
Pacific Time Zone               19.8/36
Eastern Time Zone              18.9/31
Central Time Zone               18.6/30

Not surprisingly, the Seattle market did the best. Vancouver is practically next door. A little surprisingly, Los Angeles didn't crack the top 20 market-wise. Yet West Palm Beach was fifth. Go figure.

Here are the top 20 markets:

1. Seattle, 25.9/47
2. Milwaukee, 25.8/43
3. Denver, 25.4/44
4. St. Louis, 23.7/40
5. West Palm Beach, 23.3/35
6. Cleveland, 23.1/38
7. Salt Lake City, 22.3/39
8. Columbus, 21.8/37
9. Ft. Myers, 21.4/ 34
10. Detroit, 21.1/34
11. Portland, 21.1/39
12. Providence, 21.0/36
T13. Richmond, 20.9/33
T13. Baltimore, 20.9/32
15. Sacramento, 20.6/38
16. San Francisco, 20.3/39
T17. Boston, 20.2/36
T17. Indianapolis, 20.2/34
T17. Nashville, 20.2/30
T20. Chicago, 20.1/33
T20. Buffalo, 20.1/33

-- Diane Pucin

Opening ceremony called 'a great lift' on a day that began with sorrow

The usual giddiness and joy that infuse the Olympic opening ceremony was tempered Friday by the death earlier in the day of luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was remembered in the dedication of the broadcast and with a moment of silence after the Olympic anthem.

Gretzky But John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, said afterward that the celebration of Canada's culture and history and the unity of so many athletes at Vancouver's BC Place stadium would go a long way toward easing the sorrow of the 21-year-old Georgian athlete's death in a training accident.

"This has been just about the most challenging day you could imagine. We've had a day like no other ever," he said. "We never in a thousand years would have dreamed of dealing with the things we've had today.

"But while the day was very challenging and tragic and sad, tonight was a night where I have to say I felt extremely proud of what took place in the stadium. ... Tonight, after a very difficult day, was a great lift for us. It was a wonderful lift and a tribute to the athletes and hopefully tomorrow, as the sporting events begin, that the athletes will feed off this energy and we will have extraordinary competition and lots of thrills before the Games are over."

The one glitch that stood out was the failure of a mechanical arm to rise from the stadium floor to form what was supposed to be a four-armed central caldron. After Paralympian Rick Hansen delivered the flame, two-time speedskating gold medalist Catriona LeMay Doan was supposed to join Wayne Gretzky, skier Nancy Greene and basketball player Steve Nash in touching their torches to an arm of the caldron. However, LeMay Doan was forced to stand and watch the others when the arm in front of her didn't materialize.

David Atkins, executive producer of the opening ceremony, said the fourth leg had a mechanical failure whose cause had not been determined.

"One of the arms of the caldron wasn't able to be delivered to the field of play," he said. "Fortunately the caldron functions with three arms, as you saw, and the team did an extraordinary job at the last minute recovering from that and reprogramming the caldron to still be delivered to the central burner."

He praised LeMay Doan for not panicking and everyone else involved for proceeding as best as possible. "It was an example of the fact that we're all human," Atkins said, "and the ceremony celebrated that fact in all sorts of ways."

Gretzky later was singled out to carry the flame out of the stadium and through the rainy streets of downtown Vancouver to a waterfront plaza, where he ignited a caldron that will burn throughout the Games. "Today was one of the great days not only for me but for my family," he said, adding that his father, Walter, had participated in the torch relay during the day.

He also said that he found out late that he would be one of the final torchbearers in the stadium, and that he was sworn to secrecy. The other participants were also sworn to secrecy and didn't learn about the others' involvement until two nights ago.

"The last thing John said was, 'If it gets out, you're replaced.' None of us wanted to be replaced," Gretzky said.

-- Helene Elliott in Vancouver

Photo: Wayne Gretzky carries the Olympic torch. Credit: Jim Young, Getty Images.

Live from the Winter Olympics opening ceremony (Part 3)


9:15: It's all over folks. Not the best opening ceremony of all time. Today's death cast a bit of a pall over it. However, looking back it captured the spirit of Vancouver perfectly. A big, friendly city gets a big, friendly opening ceremony.

9:14: The Gretzkymobile comes to a stop and Gretzky light the external cauldron. The opening ceremony comes to a close.

9:11: You can tell they don't worry about security as much in Canada, as dozens of citizens are running alongside the Gretzkymobile. It's like a scene out of "Rocky." Meanwhile, the people in the arena who paid $1,000 a seat are wondering why they have to watch the climactic moment of the opening ceremony on TV.

9:09: Three whole minutes of watching Wayne Gretzky carry the torch in the back of a slow-moving truck. And he's not at his final destination yet.

9:06: Gretzky hops into whay we will call the Gretzkymobile to take the flame to the external cauldron. While we are waiting, NBC will interview Joe Biden.

9:02: Wayne Gretzky runs outside the stadium to light the external cauldron.

9:00: They go with only three of the four chutes. Doan is the odd one out and doesn't get to light the cauldron. The fire races up the chutes to light the cauldron in an impressive display.

8:57: The Olympic cauldron rises from the arena floor. Apparently there are technical difficulties though, as one of the four chutes used to send the flame to the cauldron is refusing to come up.

8:53: The Olympic flame enters the arena, carried by Canadian Paralympian Rick Hansen. He hands the flame to Catriona LeMay Doan gold medalist in speedskating, who passes it to NBA star Steve Nash, who gets the assist by passing it to Nancy Greene, the most successful Canadian Alpine skier of all time. She hands it off to Wayne Gretzky. How many times does an L.A. King get to light the torch?

8:50: Garou comes out to sing. Yeah, I've never head of him either.

8:48: The athletes' oath is taken.

8:47: A minute of silence is observed to honor Georgia luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.

8:43: Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman sings while the Olympic flag is raised.

8:39: Betty Fox, Donald Sutherland, Jacques Villeneuve, Barbara Ann Scott-King, Anne Murray, Romeo Dallaire, Bobby Orr (who gets a huge ovation) and Julie Payette carry the Olympic flag into the arena.

8:33: k.d. lang takes center stage and sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." A great song, and a nice version of it. Just below Jeff Buckley's version.

8:31: Let it be forever recorded that at 8:31 Vancouver time, the Vancouver Winter Olympics were declared open by Canada Governor General Michelle Jean. 

8:26: John Furlong is done speaking, but now Rogge is speaking again.

8:24: John Furlong is still speaking.

8:16: John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee speaks. If you listen closely, you can hear TVs all across the U.S. turning to another channel to see what else is on.

8:15: IOC President Jacques Rogge says a few words in memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died in a training accident today. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends, family and teammates.

8:12: The mountain falls away to reveal Canadian poet and performer Shane Koyczan. He recites a poem as again all the momentum from the light show falls apart.

8:08: A montage of Winter Olympics events in projected on the mountain. In-line skaters skate around the mountain. Each skater has LED lights on their costume, and with some extra light show help, an illusion of Vancouver appears where the mountain was. This has been an amazing light show tonight.

8:03: Everyone in the audience has been given a miniature flashlight, which they are all waving at once. It looks like a blizzard has hit the arena, as a canvas mountain rises from the floor, dominating the arena. Skiers and snowboarders are lowered from the ceiling, giving the illusion that they are traveling down the mountain.

7:53: They are now tap dancing, and some of the tap dancers have sparklers on their feet. Apparently they blew their entire special effects budget on the fancy floor light show.

7:47: You guessed it. More dancing. This time accompanied by multiple fiddlers.

7:44: We are at the "Rhythms of the Fall" segment. A blue and white canoe slowly lowers from the ceiling with a man playing a fiddle. A shadow of the fiddler is projected on a moon in the arena. The fiddler tosses his cape from the canoe, and it triggers a cascade of maple leafs, falling to the arena floor.

Live from the Winter Olympics opening ceremony (Part 2)


7:53: They are now tap dancing, and some of the tap dancers have sparklers on their feet. Apparently they blew their entire special effects budget on the fancy floor light show.

Note: You can read Part 3 of our live coverage here .

7:47: You guessed it. More dancing. This time accompanied by multiple fiddlers.

7:44: We are at the "Rhythms of the Fall" segment. A blue and white canoe slowly lowers from the ceiling with a man playing a fiddle. A shadow of the fiddler is projected on a moon in the arena. The fiddler tosses his cape from the canoe, and it triggers a cascade of maple leafs, falling to the arena floor.

7:40: More dancing. If Kenny Loggins comes out and start singing "Footloose", I'm leaving.

7:37: Sarah MacLachlan comes out to sing. And all the momentum built up from the great floor light show dissipates into nothingness.

7:33: A giant spirit bear rises from the arena floor, and in the best special effect of the evening. It looks like the entire arena is breaking apart like a giant glacier. Really beautiful. Whoever designed the floor effects earned his money. Now it looks like whales are swimming across the floor. If the rest of the show is like this, it will make it worth the ticket price.

7:29: Energy rings (light show on the arena floor, nicely done) ignite the Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately the Aurora Borealis look more like three paper streamers hanging in the sky, as that effect didn't come across well at all.

7:27: It is now snowing in the arena. Well, they are actually soap bubbles and bits of paper, but it's still a pretty nifty effect. The ceremony will now celebrate Canada's amazing and diverse geography.

7:23: More dancing as the singing ends. There has been A LOT of dancing at this opening ceremony. I'm expecting Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba to come out at any time now with their scores.

7:21: If you listen closely, you can hear many people in the arena wondering "Isn't he going to sing 'Summer of '69'?"

7:19 p.m.: The parade of nations is over. Out comes Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams to sing "Bang the Drum".

7:15: Canada enters the arena, and the crowd almost tears the roof off the joint. The response should be good enough to give them a couple extra gold medals. It must be an amazing feeling to have thousands of people cheering for you.

7:12 p.m.: The U.S. enters, and the Americans in the crowd go crazy. Lindsey Jacobellis is there, but she tried a hot-dog move and fell just before the camera got to her. NBC also showed Shaun White about two dozen times, as the rest of the athletes marched in obscurity.

7 p.m.: We are up to Romania now. All the countries sort of begin to blend into one after a while.

By the way, tickets to the opening ceremony were going for about $5,000 Friday. And the streets of Vancouver were packed with athletes, coaches and visitors.

It's like the "It's A Small World" ride at Disneyland come to life, and is an amazing cultural experience to be a part of.

Photo: The delegation fron Georgia enters the arena. Credit:

Live opening ceremony updates


6:57: For those of you watching on TV, notice the people dressed in white lining the parade of nations route. They have been dancing non-stop for about 40 minutes, and we're about halfway through the parade. Now that's dedication.

Note: You can read Part 2 of our coverage, including the U.S. in the parade of nations, here.

6:49: Japan. When you watch this on TV, look at the stands. They have the audience wearing different colored parkas, and when viewed from a distance, you can see that the flag of each country is represented in the stands. Very classy, very nice.

6:45: Iceland arrives.

6:39: Georgia comes out without joy. Understandably after the death of their countrymate. The arena rises in one to give them a standing ovation. But there is no happiness for the member of Georgia. All we can offer them are our thoughts and prayers.

6:35: Estonia comes out. The one cool thing about being here is seeing the absolute joy on the faces of the athletes. It's easy to forget that many of the people here have trained almost their whole lives for this moment. And deep down, many of them know they don't have a chance at a medal, so the parade of nations is their one moment in the spotlight. And then you get some bozo like me making snarky comments. But you have to respect what these athlete have gone through to get here, and be touched by their unbridled joy and enthusiasm.

6:28: Bermuda comes out, wearing bermuda shorts with black socks, reminding people everywhere of the A/V club in high school.

Continue reading »

Looking back at Canada's last Olympic opening ceremony

The opening ceremony likely will have a different feel to it since it'll be the first to be held indoors. A crowd of 60,000 is expected to attend Friday's ceremony at BC Place, allowing fans to stay warm and dry (rain is in the forecast for Vancouver).

Still, will this opening ceremony capture the essence of community, art and sport that has been employed so successfully in years past? Torino's use of pyrotechnics was truly spectacular, and who could ever forget the dramatic lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer?

One thing is certain -- it'll surpass Canada's last opening ceremony. The 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary were part of a different era when opening ceremonies weren't as lavish as they are now.

For the time, this was probably a stellar effort. Unfortunately, thanks to that archer in Barcelona and China's deep pockets (and fake singing) the bar has been raised. Check out the video:

-- Austin Knoblauch

Flag-bearer remembers when U.S. sliders were born losers, not lugers


Two other luge athletes have carried the flag for the United States in Olympic opening ceremonies: Frank Masley in 1984 and Cammy Myler in 1994.

But it wasn't until 1998 that the U.S. won a medal in the German- and Italian-dominated sport.

Mark Grimmette of Muskegon, Mich., who will carry the flag Friday, began sliding 26 years ago and competed in his first of five Olympics in 1994. He remembers the bad old days.

"When I first got into it, the U.S. team was the example of what not to do when you go down the track," Grimmette said Thursday. "The European nations would come to the track and watch us for maybe a little bit of excitement.

Continue reading »

Mark Grimmette: "I'm still shaking" after being chosen to carry U.S. flag

Mark It was only fitting that U.S. Olympic flag bearer Mark Grimmette learned about his selection from his doubles teammate, Brian Martin.

Grimmette, of Muskegon, Mich., and Martin, of Palo Alto, have teamed to become the most successful luge duo in U.S. history, winning three World Cup titles, an Olympic bronze medal in 1998 and a silver medal in 2002. Grimmette, 39, is a five-time Olympian and will be the third luge athlete to carry the flag into the Olympic opening ceremony. His predecessors are Frank Masley in 1984 and Cammy Myler in 1994.

The flag bearer was chosen through a vote of other American athletes.

"I'm still shaking." Grimmette said in a statement released by the U.S. Olympic Committee. "I was incredibly surprised when Brian told me, and I'm still trying to process it all. To be the person leading the U.S. team into the opening ceremony is just such a great honor."

Continue reading »

Old friend Ziggy Palffy to carry flag for Slovakia

Ziggy Palffy, still fondly remembered by Kings fans for his three 30-plus-goal seasons, will have the honor of carrying the flag for Slovakia in Friday's opening ceremony at BC Place.

Fabforum The high-scoring right wing, who last played for the Kings in the 2003-04 season and last played in the NHL in the 2005-06 season, retired from the national team in 2005 and from hockey overall in 2006 but returned to play for HK Skalica in the Slovak Extraliga in 2007. He's now an assistant coach of Skalica and said this will be his last Olympics.

"It's nice to be here in Canada, a hockey world," he told the Olympic News Service. "I want to have good memories."

Slovakia should be a medal contender thanks to the recent strong play of goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has a 2.45 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 29 games this season with the Montreal Canadiens. "I don't like to put everything on Jaroslav's shoulders, but he's important to us," Slovakian coach Jan Filc told reporters Wednesday. "He's showed his best over the last couple of weeks."

Filc also said he's awaiting final word on the severity of the lacerated thigh suffered by winger Marian Gaborik. The 35-goal scorer was cut by the skate of teammate Henrik Lundqvist in practice with the New York Rangers on Tuesday and didn't play against Nashville on Wednesday.

"I hope it's a matter of a couple of days," Filc said.

In more hockey-player-carries-the-flag news, five-time NHL scoring champion Jaromir Jagr will do the honors for the Czech Republic. Jagr, 37, plays for Avangard Omsk of the Russian KHL.

-- Helene Elliott 

Photo: Ziggy Palffy during his days with the Kings.

Carrying a torch for the torch design


Bombardier makes aircraft and subway cars. So when VANOC, the organizing committee for the Vancouver Olympics, asked the company to work on the design of the Olympic torch, senior designer Tim Fagan knew it would be a difficult task.

Everyone had an idea of what the torch should incorporate and represent. It's a symbol, but it also has to be practical and protect the flame as it is handed off on a cross-continent journey that will end Friday at BC Place.

"The VANOC people had an idea for the look and feel and colors and what they wanted in general, but they wanted to allow us to be creative, and they shared with us some of the inspirations and images that had inspired them," Fagan said by phone from Montreal.

"We were inspired by the natural world, the sites of Vancouver and Whistler, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the ocean, the mountains, the forests and snow. Also, with the Games happening in Canada, we wanted to impart a sense of the winter landscape."

Oh, and one other requirement: "It was important that it not be too heavy," Fagan said. "The torchbearers cover a broad range of ages and abilities."

Continue reading »


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