Vancouver Olympics Open With Indoor Ceremonies

The Winter Olympics get under way Friday night in British Columbia, Canada — and it's a good thing the ceremony is inside, because the weather outside has been far from ideal for winter sports.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

When the Winter Olympics kick off tonight in Vancouver, the opening ceremony will be held indoors for the first time. NPR's Howard Berkes is in Vancouver. He says some pre-games drama hints at the kind of Olympics we could see when the first full day of competition begins tomorrow.

HOWARD BERKES: Given the weather, these could be the soggy and foggy games. Listen to Italian skier Lucia Recchia after she tried a training run yesterday on the women's downhill course in Whistler.

Ms. LUCIA RECCHIA (Olympic Skier): I couldn't see from one gate to the other down here. So the upper part was OK but down here, it was so foggy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RECCHIA: It was bad. So I came there, and I thought: Where am I going?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BERKES: The rest of the women's training runs were canceled for the day.

And that kept American Lindsey Vonn from testing her painful and injured shin, which may keep these from being the Vonncouver Games. Vonn was expected to be the queen of the podium, with five possible medals. Her husband, Thomas, talked to reporters after training was canceled.

Mr. THOMAS VONN: All she wants to do is be able to get to a point where she can push through the pain. It was debilitating before. Now, it's finally getting to the point where she can kind of grit her teeth and - at least it seems.

BERKES: Closer to Vancouver, heavy rain continued to bedevil the snowboarding and freestyle skiing courses at Cypress Mountain. Crews have trucked and flown in more than 300,000 cubic feet of snow, but continued warmth and rain have officials considering delays in competition. Cathy Priest Allinger is the operations director for the games.

Ms. CATHY PRIEST ALLINGER (Operations Director, Olympics): The weather hasn't been in our favor in the last several weeks, and as we move into the next few days, it's not. So it's impossible to put an odds on if we're going to have the delay or a postponement, but we're ready if we have to. But our number one goal is to get the event off the day it's scheduled.

BERKES: At the same news conference, Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong gamely pointed out that the indoor competition won't have weather problems, same for tonight's opening ceremony, which begins what could be called the Oh, Canada games. Canadians expect to dominate, and to use tonight's ceremony and the games...

Mr. JOHN FURLONG (Vancouver Olympic CEO): ...to let Canada be seen on its own terms to the world and have the world, you know, look at why Canada works.

BERKES: And why Canadians cheer.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BERKES: In downtown Vancouver last night, crowds spilled into the street as an Olympic torch runner appeared. The scene defied the polls indicating widespread ambivalence about the games, and there was nothing ambivalent about Nancy MacKenzie and her Canadian red cowboy hat, shirt, fleece jacket and gloves, all plastered with white maple leaves.

Ms. NANCY MACKENZIE: 'Cause we're excited about it being here. And Vancouver's not - doesn't get that excited about things too often. I think it's a fantastic opportunity for us to really get behind ourselves and our country and support our athletes.

BERKES: Ah, the athletes. There are about 2,600 of them. Thirty were told to stay home after testing positive for drugs. Olympic officials don't want these to be the Doping Games.

Most of the remaining athletes will march into the BC Place Arena tonight to celebrate 17 days of athletic effort, glory, disappointment and surprise, giving the games a name we can't begin to imagine now.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Vancouver.

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