Olympic triumph and tragedy

The Olympic Winter Games have returned to Canada after more than a 20-year absence. Previously held in Calgary, Alberta in 1988, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics are now on every channel, in every newspaper and on the tip of every Canadian’s tongue. Let’s take a look at some of the action so far.

For the first time, the opening ceremony was held indoors. The Aboriginal peoples of British Columbia welcomed athletes and fans from around the world to Vancouver for the winter games. The action on the main stage was awe-inspiring with animation and lighting effects that made even the most unrealistic setting come alive. Canada was the center of attention, and each cultural story and each poetic word described Canada as the wonderful mosaic it is. Over 2600 athletes are performing from over 80 different countries, but unfortunately one of them met a tragic end on the day of the opening ceremony.

Nodar Kumaritashvili, an Olympian from Georgia, was involved in a violent accident during a training run for the luge at the Whistler Sliding Centre. Kumaritashvili lost control and was thrown from his sled, hitting a steel pole at over 140 km/h and dying shortly after. Although the day was burdened with sad news, the opening ceremony continued and Georgia’s athletic team appeared strong with heads held high, wearing black armbands to mourn the death of their teammate. Vancouver Olympic organizing committee CEO John Furlong and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge acknowledged the loss.

“You compete with such bravery, conviction and pride at these Games,” Furlong said, referring to all Olympic athletes.

“You now have the added burden to shine and be united around your fallen colleague, Nodar. May you carry his Olympic dream on your shoulders and compete with his spirit in your hearts.”

And athletes, there were aplenty. The largest numbers of athletes brought to the games were by the United States of America with 216. Canada brought 206 athletes, of which 116 are men and 90 are women. To conclude the opening ceremony, Wayne Gretzky carried the Olympic torch towards the waterfront to light the outdoor cauldron which officially begins the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Alexandre Bilodeau made history by becoming the first Canadian to win a gold medal on Canadian soil. Bilodeau claimed the medal in Men’s moguls skiing and the whole country was in an uproar of joy and excitement. With the pressure to win gold finally gone, Maelle Ricker became the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal on Canadian soil by vanquishing her opponents in the snowboard cross event. Two days later, Christine Nesbitt brought home gold in the Women’s 1000-metre speed skating event. With four days to go, there are still more events to come, and even more chances for Canada to grab gold.

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