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 . world ski news
11 February 2006 - 19:03
WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES OPENING !
Olympic flame lit over Turin as Winter Games begin
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TURIN, Italy, 10 February 2006 (AFP) - The Olympic flame burned brightly over Turin as fireworks sparked the start of the 20th Winter Games which were welcomed back to Italy after 50 years in a star-studded opening ceremony.


Fireworks erupt over the stadium after the Olympic flame was lit during the opening ceremony for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, Friday, Feb. 10. 2006 (AP Photo/Chris Helgren, Pool)

Stefania Belmondo, Italy's most decorated winter Olympian, won the race for the honour of lighting the cauldron to mark the start of 17 days of competition on snow and ice.

The ceremony was capped with an emotional rendition of Nessun Dorma by Luciano Pavarotti.

Italian gymnastics legend Jury Chechi, nicknamed 'Lord of the Rings' had opened the fast-moving show, under the banner "Passion Lives Here", two-and-a-half hours earlier.

Flames erupted as Chechi struck a golden anvil symbolising the industry of Turin, the largest city to host the Winter Games, before a full house of 35,000 spectators inside the Stadio Olimpico.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge was joined by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and representatives of competing nations including US First Lady Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Prince Albert of Monaco.

And on the day that US skeleton slider Zach Lund was dumped from the Olympics after being banned for one year for doping, the IOC boss called for a clean Games.

"Athletes, you are role models, your conduct will inspire and motivate future generations. Please compete in a spirit of fair play, mutual understanding and respect and, above all, compete cleanly by refusing doping," Rogge urged.

"Give these Games the magic that we all desire, not only through your performances but also above all through your conduct.

"Our world today is in need of peace, tolerance and brotherhood. The values of th Olympic Games can deliver these to us. May the Games be held in peace, in the true spirit of the Olympic Truce."

Organisers had promised the multi-million euro event filled with "Rhythm, Passion and Speed" to showcase Italian culture and history through the ages and it did not disappoint.

Inline skaters with red flames darting from their helmets, dubbed the "Sparks of Passion," represented the frenetic speed of everyday life that Italians love.

White-clad dancers sported balloon-like giant bubbles, with spectators kitted out with torches and white ponchos with hoods.

Giorgio Armani designed the costumes used for the protocol ceremony presenting the host country's red, green and white flag with supermodel Carla Bruni carrying the flag before it was raised above the stadium.

Among the highlight was the parade of athletes - some 2,500 competitors from around 80 countries who were welcomed.

Cheers went up as athletes from Cold War foes South and North Korea marched together in a show of unity for the first time at a Winter Olympics.

Not surprisingly, the biggest cheer was reserved for the Italian team led in by figure skater Carolina Kostner.

Italian culture from Dante's Divine Comedy, symbol of the passage from the Middle Ages to the New World, was then explored through to the excesses of a Renaissance and Baroque feast, followed by a giant sun and moon floating over the stage to represent the quest for knowledge.

A very modern symbol of Italy - and Turin's car-manufacturing past - was represented as a Ferrari Formula One car burst onto the stage before disappearing in a fog of burning rubber.

The Italian president then officially opened the Turin Winter Olympics.

Italian screen star Sophia Loren and US actress Susan Saradon, both UN Goodwill Ambassadors, were among eight carriers of the Olympic flag from the five continents, along with 2004 Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Olympic champion Maria Mutola.

After 28 acrobats formed a white dove above the stage, tribute was paid on the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death by a call for peace from his widow Yoko Ono.

Peter Gabriel sang Imagine, one of Lennon's most enduring compositions.

It was followed by the final leg of the Torch relay before the 36-year-old Belmondo, who won 10 medals in her career including two gold, concluded its journey.

The Olympic Brazier which stands 57 metres tall will be visible from all points of the city until the Games end on February 26.

Competition proper gets underway on Saturday when four gold medals will be awarded in biathlon, nordic combined, women's freestyle moguls and men's speed-skating.


 
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Next:
OLYMPIC DAY 2 – 12 February 2006 - 15:55
OLYMPIC DAY 4 – 15 February 2006 - 15:33
OLYMPIC DAY 5 – 17 February 2006 - 00:39
OLYMPIC DAY 6 – 17 February 2006 - 01:14
Vasaloppet 90 km / 45 km ski marathon – 05 March 2006 - 22:00

Previous:
Kostelic wins final race before Olympics – 06 February 2006 - 12:28
Alpine World Cup in Adelboden and Maribor – 12 January 2006 - 15:37
Nordic news this weekend – 08 January 2006 - 14:08
Austria's Schild crowned Snow Queen – 06 January 2006 - 00:36
TURIN 2006 READY TO HOST WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES – 04 January 2006 - 14:32

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