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Page last updated at 17:29 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Winter Olympics opening ceremony as it happened

(All times local. GMT -8)

To get involved text us your views & comments on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide). (Not all contributions can be used)

By Rob Hodgetts in Vancouver

2120: And so the 21st Winter Olympics are go. A mesmerising opening ceremony, followed by fireworks over the water, lifted a tragic day which saw the death of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who crashed in training earlier. The Games will be poorer without him. Thanks for your company tonight. We'll reconvene on Saturday for the first full day of action. The men's downhill, women's moguls and luge are doubtful but we'll know more at 0830 (1630 GMT). There's also ski jumping, biathlon, short-track speed skating, speed skating and women's ice hockey to savour. Let the Games begin.

2115: A short delay as the flame makes its way to the waterfront. Wayne Gretzky, on his own now, lights a similar ice structure to the one in the stadium and the flame burns bright above Vancouver by the waters of Coal Harbour with the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains behind.
2100: Three giant ice crystals emerge from the floor (should have been four but one didn't work) and fall together and the four torch bearers - NBA star Steve Nash, skier Nancy Greene, speedskater Katrina LeMay Doan, and ice hockey icon Wayne Gretzky - light the base and the Olympic flame bursts into life in the cauldron. Fireworks go off and the three-hour marathon is almost at an end. But there will be more, as the flame must be lit outside. Stay right here.

2055: Wait for comes the torch. After travelling 45,000km across Canada, the flame is brought into the arena by Paralympian Rick Hansen. It's passed through several pairs of illustrious Canadian hands before ending up with ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

2047: The audience are asked to remain standing for a minute's silence in honour of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died earlier on Friday after crashing in practice. The athletes' oath is then taken by ice hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, who won gold with Canada in 2002 and 2006. On behalf of all the competitors she promises to compete within the rules and without doping. Famous male singer Garou belts out "Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin" ( A little higher, a little further).

2043: The Olympic hymn is sung by Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman as the flag is slowly raised.

2040: The Olympic torch is 12 minutes away. Until then, we have the entrance of the Olympic flag, carried by eight internationally prominent Canadians, including Donald Sutherland and Jacques Villenueve.

2030: Jacques Rogge again: "Thank you, Canada, for this great loyalty to the Olympic ideals, and to all regions of Canada for their strong commitment and support." In French, Mr Rogge urges the athletes to compete cleanly and with fairness and the right spirit. The governor general of Canada Michaelle Jean "declares open the Games of Vancouver, celebrating the 21st Winter Games". So that's it then, we're up and running. Canadian chanteuse KD Lang sings Hallelujah.

2025: John Furlong still: "From whatever country you are from, we welcome you as good friends and we aim to leave you all with breathtaking memories to last a lifetime. Let us be reminded the world is watching, hoping, cheering. If you listen, you can almost hear the voices. Over the 16 days to come our children will become to believe what is possible."

2018: IOC president Jacques Rogge and John Furlong, boss of the organising committee, emerge for the official speeches. Rogge: "Before we officially welcome you to these Games, it is with greatness sadness that we acknowledge the tragic loss of Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed while training on the luge track this morning. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, his friends, his team-mates and his countryman." Furlong to the athletes: "May you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and compete with his spirit in your hearts." The spectators all bang their drums in mass approval.

2012: Red-clad skaters join in to circle the Rockies and their energy sparks the transformation of the mountains into a sky-scraper packed neon-lit city. Poet Shane Koyczan performs his "We Are More" poem, an ode which defines Canada. "I believe we got a true taste of Canada during that cultural section. We may not wave that flag like some countries do but we wear it in our hearts," says BBC skiing commentator Kerrin Lee-Gartner.

2005: Eventually the golden prairie idyll is broken by a great storm - icy blue rain and clouds - and then the Rocky Mountains are born, depicted by huge cloth peaks. Red skiers and boarders descend on wires to denote the sports that we are all here for.

1958: From the ice, to the seas and the forests and now Canada's great prairies. A lone boy runs through computer-generated golden grasslands and then soars high into the sky to perform a series of tumbles and acrobatics, now and then touching down as another patch of grassland lights up. The sequence, to the music of Joni Mitchell, is supposed to represent growing up in the vastness of the Canadian prairies.

1945: A huge harvest moon descends from the roof to depict the Fall and giant red maple leaves fall to the floor. A fiddler, looking suspiciously like batman in silhouette in the moon, ushers in a host of dancers of different types portraying the diverse roots of Canadians over the years. The ceremony turns into one giant tap-dancing ceilidh.

1935: The sea ice on the floor of the stadium is seen to split up as the peoples are disseminated, before stunning computer graphics show killer whales, and wild pacific salmon racing upstream. The waters then morph into trees to represent Canada's giant forests. Nova Scotia's three-time Grammy Award winner Sarah McLachlan sings "Ordinary Miracle".

1930: The pace of the ceremony slows as a piece celebrates the northern Canadian lands and peoples. The northern lights are represented by a huge lit-up display suspended in the centre of the arena, with the constellations depicted and the huge 50ft spirit bear of the first people rising from the floor.

1920: With the parade of nations at an end, big-name Canadian artists Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado take to the stage to belt out a duet. "Sing something louder, so the whole world can hear..." they sing. The crowd have been given torches and drums and they're all being used at once. A great spectacle.

1916: A simply massive, sustained roar rumbles around BC Place as the hosts Canada march out. They're the second largest team behind the USA but have never won a gold medal on home soil at an Olympic Games. Their controversial "Own the Podium" programme is designed to break that duck in emphatic fashion. Speed skater Clara Hughes carries the Canadian flag. She is only the fourth person ever to win a medal in both summer and winter Games. The race will be on to win the first Canadian gold in Vancouver, with Manuel Osborne-Paradis in with a shout if the downhill goes ahead on Saturday morning, or Jennifer Heil if the women's moguls can take place on Saturday evening.

1912: Big cheers for members of the largest team at the Games, the USA. They've got 216 athletes and won nine golds last time out. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn is targeting three golds, while speedskater Shani Davis is eyeing five. Then there's snowboard icon Shaun White, who is the favourite for the men's halfpipe.

1910: A quick newsflash away from the opening ceremony - Saturday's men's downhill will be postponed unless there is a significant improvement in the course condition, race director Guenther Hujara has said. "If the slope remains the same as it is right now, there will certainly be no downhill," Hujara told reporters. Men's downhill training on Friday was cancelled and the women were also unable to train on a course that has become slushy since a drop in temperatures and rain.

1905: It's the turn of the big Russian team, hosts for the next Games at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in 2014. The Russian sports minister has said all gold medal winners will receive $100,000. The Russians could spoil Canada's party in a big way if they beat them in the men's ice hockey final, a much-anticipated clash if they both get there.

1900: Here come the mighty Norwegians, the most successful nation at the Winter Olympics with 98 golds and 283 medals in all. Biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen has won nine on his own, including five golds, and is back for more. He is closing in on nordic skier Bjorn Daehlie's record haul of 12 medals.

1855: We're up to Mexico, whose lone entry is 51-year-old skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe, competing in his fifth Games. Britain have been set a medal target of three, with Shelley Rudman, David Murdoch's curling team and the bobsleigh duo of Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke fancied.

1840: Ghana's sole entry, skier Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong - dubbed "the Snow Leopard" - marches in to cheers. He is followed by Great Britain, with Turin silver medallist Shelley Rudman carrying the flag.

From Jordan in Leicester via text to 81111: "Massive ice hockey fan in UK (Sheffield Steelers) - hoping to see some good coverage, hoping for a Canada v USA final, with Canada to win."

1835: Into the stadium come the grief-stricken Georgian team. The crowd, as one, get to their feet and applaud. The members of the team wear black armbands, black scarves on top of their red ski suits and their flag has a black patch. Some are crying, all look devastated.

1825: "I remember my days as an athlete you weren't allowed to bring in cameras. Now they've realised it's a big part of the Games for these guys and they let them," says BBC skiing commentator Kerrin Lee-Gartner, who won downhill gold at Albertville in 1992. The Bermuda team, true to form, walk out in very smart red shorts. Nice touch.

1818: In keeping with tradition, the Greece team lead out the parade of athletes. Representatives from all 82 participating nations will walk around the welcome circle provided by the Canadian aboriginal people and take their seats in the stands. There are more than 2,500 athletes in all at the Games, and five nations making their debuts - Colombia, Cayman Islands, Ghana, Pakistan and Peru.

1815: Four giant totem poles are raised as the four host nations of the indigenous Canadian people welcome the world to their lands. Meanwhile, a statement from Games organisers says Jacques Rogge will honour Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died tragically in training earlier today, at the opening ceremony. The flags will be lowered to half mast and the spectators in BC Place Stadium will be asked to join with the mourning. The Georgian team are to march into the arena in black armbands. They will also place a black patch on the Georgian flag that will be raised immediately following the parade of athletes.

1806: A team of nine Royal Canadian Mounted Police carry the Canadian flag from one end of the arena to the other to be flown on one of the giant flagpoles. The Olympic flag will fly on the other. As the standard is raised, the Canadian national anthem is sung by 16-year-old Nikki Yanofsky looking resplendent in a red dress on a raised podium in front of the orchestra.

1800: The ceremony begins with a stunning film of just why Vancouver and Whistler have been chosen as hosts for the 21st Winter Olympics. Stupendous scenery, with a snowboarder atop a snowy peak. He plunges down through the powder, carving arcs of fresh snow and flying off rocks before speeding through a giant red maple leaf made up of torchbearers. In the stadium, he appears below the huge screen and and soars off a ramp, through the Olympic rings and into the arena. "Welcome to Vancouver 2010" he cries.

1758: Just seconds to go now then. Thousands of flash bulbs firing all around the BC Place Stadium as the fanfare pipes up. From MK in London via text to 81111: "I got a flight to Vancouver tomorrow at 10am. How can I sleep now and miss the opening ceremony? It's too exciting! See you tomorrow Vancouver!"

1750: Speculation that a decision on the luge competition will come in around half an hour. "This track had a reputation as being fast and dangerous, but this accident will ramp up the fear factor by 100%," says BBC sliding commentator and former competitor Colin Bryce.

From Jeff in Canada via text to 81111: "I saw the crash on TV. It was horrific. RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili"

1740: To the ceremony then, and Hazel Irvine, Sue Barker and Sir Matthew Pinsent will take BBC viewers (UK only, sorry international chums) through the two-and-half hours' extravangaza. I was at the dress rehearsal for research purposes and it's a cracker. Small, intimate and indoors for the first time.

From BBC Sport's Lewis Wiltshire on Twitter: "At opening ceremony of Winter Olympics. BC Place looks amazing. Let's hope evening can help regenerate Games after tragic day."

1730: The build-up to the Games has been dogged by doubts over the unseasonable weather - not enough snow at Cypress Mountain for the snowboarding and freestyle skiing, and heavy snow, fog and then rain up at Whistler for the alpine skiing. Sunday's women's super-combined has already been postponed as there is not enough time left to get in a training run, while the men's downhill and the women's moguls, which are both set for Saturday, are in doubt. We'll obviously keep you bang up to date on those. We're also waiting for a decision on the luge competition, which is supposed to start on Saturday.

But we have had our first live action today, with qualifying in the men's normal hill ski jumping. Gregor Schlierenzauer of Austria had the longest jump of 107m, while Michael Uhrmann of Germany led a group of 41 ski jumpers who earned spots to add to those already qualified, meaning there will be 51 jumpers for the event, which starts in earnest on Saturday morning at Whistler.

1720: To whet your appetite for all things Olympic, have a watch of Sir Matthew Pinsent's guide to Vancouver, and then have a gander at Arnold Schwarzenegger handing over the Olympic torch to Lord Sebastian Coe in Stanley Park on Friday morning. Hardened hacks here are saying it was one of the biggest media scrums they'd ever been in. Having been here all week, I can tell you that this picturesque harbourside city is absolutely buzzing with anticipation.

1715: So, four years on from Turin, it's Vancouver's two weeks in the spotlight and the city, the province of British Columbia, and the people of Canada are ready to host the world. And to make the whole thing swing here on the website, we really need you to get involved. Text us on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide). Or get in touch with me via Twitter. If winter sports rock your world, you've come to the right place.

1700: Welcome, everyone, to BBC Sport's first live text commentary of the 21st Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. We'll be live all day, every day, for the next 17 days, as we look forward to a feast of winter sports action. Tonight we've got the opening ceremony from BC Place, which starts at 1800.

But before we carried away with the razzmatazz of the Games, we must pause to reflect on the tragic death today of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who crashed at high speed while training in Whistler. Watch the reaction here of IOC president Jacques Rogge. An investigation is under way into the accident before decisions are made on whether the luge event takes place, or on measures to make the Whistler track safer. But the small Georgian team have said they will march during the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony. Barring the cheers for the hosts, they are likely to receive the biggest ovation of the night. The Games will continue, but under a huge shadow.

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