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Winter Olympic Games Open in Vancouver, Canada


The Olympic Cauldron ignited inside the stadium in Vancouver, Canada, 12 Feb 2010

The Olympic Cauldron ignited inside the stadium in Vancouver, Canada, 12 Feb 2010

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky among athletes lighting the Olympic Flame to officially start the games after a stirring opening ceremony.

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games have officially begun in Vancouver, Canada.

World-famous Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic cauldron in the stadium along with three other Canadian athletes and medalists, despite a sight mechanical error. Gretzky then headed outdoors to light a second cauldron, visible across the city.

Earlier, representatives from Canada's indigenous people welcomed some 5,000 athletes from more than 80 countries as the opening ceremony began Friday evening.

The athletes and some 60,000 spectators packing the Vancouver stadium were then treated to a cultural display featuring Canadian singers and dancers, focusing in large part on the indigenous culture and history.

The festive air was marred by the death of Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during practice earlier Friday.

A minute of silence was observed in his honor. The Georgian athletes wore black armbands and scarves, and added a black stripe to their flag.

The games will take place at several venues around Vancouver on Canada's western coast.

Twenty-one-year-old luger Kumaritashvili was approaching the final turn on the twisting track when he crashed and was thrown from his sled, smashing his head against a metal pole. He was hurtling at nearly 145 kilometers per hour at the time.

Competitors have exceeded 145-kilometers per hour on the track. Several Olympians recently have questioned its safety.

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said the accident affected the entire Olympic family. Despite the death of Kumaritashvili, Georgian officials say their country's athletes will stay and compete.

The closing ceremonies take place February 28.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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