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2006 Olympic Winter Games Open in Turin, Italy

The 2006 Olympic Winter Games have started with a glittering ceremony featuring opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti and U.S. First Lady Laura Bush.

In front of 35,000 fans in Turin's Olympic Stadium Friday, Italian gymnast Yuri Chechi swung a huge hammer and struck a bronze anvil and ignited a giant fireball.

The ceremony included red-clad rollerbladers with spouts of fire coming from their heads, trumpeters playing huge Alpine horns, and pulsating music throughout.

The ceremony continued with the parade of athletes. Mrs. Bush carried the Olympic flag into the stadium along with seven other women, including actress Sophia Loren and three gold medal winners.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the world needs peace and brotherhood at this time. However, the Danish delegation was escorted by plainclothes security because of heightened tensions. Danish newspapers recently angered Muslims by publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Italian skiing sensation Alberto Tomba carried the Olympic torch into the stadium and passed it to another Italian star Stefania Belmondo, who ignited the Olympic cauldron. Belmondo has won 10 Olympic medals, including two gold.

Competition begins Saturday with medals awarded in men's speed skating, Nordic combined, and women's freestyle skiing moguls.

Some 2,600 athletes from more than 80 countries will be competing in 15 sports for 84 medals over the 17-day event. Unprecedented security is in place, including NATO fighter jets backing up 15,000 Italian police.

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