Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic georgian luger dies in training an run crash

VANCOUVER news The Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony was launched in a flurry of ticker-tape Friday in an event dedicated to Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died earlier in a horror smash. The domed BC Place stadium in Vancouver was packed with thousands of people clad in white in an event involving a host of stars and linking Canada's past with the modern nation, including a welcome from Native peoples. Ahead of the start of the ceremony, organisers said it would include several elements in honour of Kumaritashvili who was killed after flying off the luge track at high speed and smashing into a metal pillar during a training run. As the Georgian team, dressed in red and wearing black armbands, marched into the stadium, the crowd cheered and stood to applaud. The show was being staged in front of International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, Canadian governor general Michaelle Jean and the chiefs of the Four Host First Nations. Ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky was due to be among the torchbearers while flagbearers included ice hockey legend Bobby Orr, former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve and actor Donald Sutherland. Performers featured on the programme included teenage musical prodigy Nikki Yanofsky and international stars Bryan Adams and Joni Mitchell. The two Korean teams were kept apart as the teams marched into the stadium. North Korea, listed as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, entered the stadium at number 23 while the South entered at number 45. The two nations have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended only in an armistice. About 2,500 athletes from a record 82 countries are participating in the games, vying for medals in 86 events - including the newly added ski-cross competition. First-time Winter Olympic participants include the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Ghana, Montenegro, Pakistan, Peru and Serbia. The overall favorites include Germany and the United States - which finished first and second four years ago in Turin - and also Canada, a best-ever third in 2006 and now brashly proclaiming its intention to finish atop the medals table on its home turf. "We're still going to be nice, but we're going to be nice in winning," said Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. The Canadian team was scheduled to be the last contingent in the parade of nations at Friday's ceremony, marching behind flagbearer Clara Hughes, defending gold medalist in the 5,000- meter speedskating race. Just ahead in the parade will be the Americans. Their flagbearer is Mark Grimmette, 39, of Muskegon, Mich.,

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