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Dramatic, Moving Ceremony Opens Winter Olympics - 2002-02-09

The 19th Winter Olympics have opened with a dramatic and moving ceremony at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. The ceremony focused on its theme of "The Fire Within" and remembered the victims of September's terrorist attacks.

In a jammed Rice Eccles Stadium, the Opening ceremonies began with a solemn remembrance of the victims of September 11. Members of the New York Police and Fire Departments and U.S. Athletes brought in the torn flag that flew above the World Trade Center.

With President George Bush, Salt Lake Olympic Committee head Mitt Romney and IOC President Jacques Rogge looking on, the flag was presented as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang the national anthem.

After athletes from 77 nations entered the stadium, Mr. Rogge called the Olympics in Salt Lake City a gathering of champions and an opportunity for healing America's, and the world's, wounds. "Your nation is overcoming an horrific tragedy," he said. "A tragedy that has affected the whole world. We stand united with you in the promotion of our common ideals and hope for world peace."

Then surrounded by the U.S. Olympic team, President Bush officially opened the 19th Winter Olympics. "On behalf of a proud, determined, and grateful nation, I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Olympic Winter Games," he said.

The Ceremonies continued with the a tribute to Native Americans, the Pioneers who traveled to and settled the American West, and finally the Olympic flame entered the stadium to the cheers of the crowd.

U.S. Olympic gold medallists from several Winter Games, including figure skaters Dorothy Hamill, Dick Button and Scott Hamilton, speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen, skiers Picabo Street and hockey player Cammy Granato, took turns carrying the torch. Then the entire 1980 gold medal winning U.S. hockey team ignited the cauldron atop the stadium.

Competition begins Saturday with medals in cross country skiing, women's moguls skiing and speed skating. The Games continue through February 24.