Stefanie Hartman In The Press

Opening Ceremonies Walk Thru

Posted on 15 February 2010 by Stefanie

What a day.  I have never been to an event where there was so much excitement and devastation on the same day.

For those of you who have not heard, one of the athletes died during practice of the Luge sport the day of the opening ceremonies.  This sport is dear to my heart as my favorite Luge Man –  Ruben Gonzales, a friend and past client of mine also competes.  Unfortunately Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian slider, died when he flew off his sled going around a corner during practice on the Olympic track.  He was travelling at 88 miles an hour and hit a medal structure beam.

That night during the opening ceremonies all eyes, hearts and minds were on the Georgians, when they entered the area.  No matter what country you were from, you got out of your seat and supported these athletes, who were such a small group, and were now down 1 very good friend and teammate.

All 60,000 people also prayed silently as they honored Nodar with a moment of silence.  I believe Nodar was watching the ceremonies or walking down the great oval alongside of his teammates.  You could certainly feel his spirit and presence.  He will be missed by those who loved him and every one of the 60,000 fans in the audience.  We all felt for him and their teammates.  

Lugemen will tell you their sport is not reckless, they are “engineers” as my friend Ruben Gonzalez says.  Engineers who analyze the track and have the courage of test pilots.

This tragic event has caused many of the fans to appreciate the risks and the heart, the passion and the courage, that all athletes encompass.  Often this is overlooked as we focus on whether they won a medal or not.  How easily we can forget all the work and sacrifice and mental workout they do to even compete and represent us – the bystanders enjoying our hot dogs and festivities.

This also caused some of the athletes to remember that there is more in life than competing, some of them commented that they were retiring and moving on to other goals in life.  For others, you could see it in their faces, the process of overcoming fear and emotions to achieve their goals.  You could see this, as the next day, all the lugemen and woman practiced on the very course that killed their friend and fellow athlete.  Just think about what strength you would have to materialize to take that journey down the track – even to take the first step.

I am in awe.  This year my powerful pack of leaders are called the Business Olympians ( ).  Today I know that each of us may face or have faced days of devastation or obstacles that we did not foresee, and I hope each of them (and you) really think about those athletes on that track the morning after this tragic accident.  If they could do that – what could you do?  And what did they think about in order to keep going?  What would you be thinking in their shoes? Their skates? Their luge sleds?

What would you have to feel in your heart and think in your mind?  What would you be telling yourself?  And this is all after (I’m sure) a somber sleepless night.

Have you given up – with so much less real adversity – before?  If you have, I hope you use this day as a reminder of what you CAN do in your own life.  We ALL have that power.  Claim your moment!  Show yourself you CAN do this, even if it frightens you.  There is perhaps no stronger inner power than walking calmly and carefully through your fears or facing your own ring of fire.

Now for the celebration….

Hey – I told you it was a wild day.

Here’s how it went…

Security was actually pretty easy if you followed the guidelines of what to bring, very similiar to airport security (I did get my apple chips confiscated).

Then when we found our seats, there was a box attached to it.  This was a fun surprise.

Inside the box (which was shaped like a heptagon) was an audience participation kit.  There was a colored flashlight, an electric candle, a white poncho, a drum set, and a Canadian flag.

In the audience were “helpers” in white sweaters with bright red hats on.  These “helpers” would rehearse with us and then also cue us for our participation.

Here’s what we did:
First we had to assemble all our equipment – get everything ready.  Then we rehearsed the opening countdown that you saw on TV where the lights counted down 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1!  I was seated in the first group – section 10.  So we had to take our drum box, and stand up on cue with our box over our head and yell 10.  Each box was color coded to give a huge affect of the number 10 in the audience on TV.

It was very cool.

There was pressure on us – especially because we were starting.  We didn’t want to be late.  In fact I was laughing as 4 people were seated behind me that came in bit late and were totally stressed (in a funny way) on the pressure to participate.  It was funny seeing people juggle their hot dogs and standing up then sitting on all these cues.  I laughed so hard.

After this countdown we were able to watch the ceremony.  Basically we had about 20 mins between each participation activity.

The ceremony (I thought) was really spectacular.  The lights show was amazing.  I won’t describe the whole event as you would have seen in on TV.  It began to my left with snow falling and a snowboarder entering the Olympic stadium by sliding down a ski jump through the Olympic rings onto the center of the stage.  It was unexpected and made many people next to me (and ok me too) jump.

Then the athletes entered the arena.  It was a parade of nations, everyone entered in alphabetical order with the exception of Greece going first and Canada coming in last.  Korea was split into 2 teams this year (which was different than in 2006) and came in at different times.  And as I mentioned everyone was on their feet in support of Georgia.

The organizers really transformed the arena to look like a snow covered blank canvas from which lights told an ever changing story.  A story of our history, plus highlighting the seasons of Vancouver, Whistler and rest of Canada. This portion was designed to demonstrate how the climate & landscape shaped the Canadian culture.

There was a 20-meter led bear that rose up out of the floor, hundreds of fiddlers and tap dancers, aboriginal dancers welcoming everyone and skiers and snowboarders hanging in mid-air, skiing down a curtain of snow and lights.  The lights turned off and suddenly it seemed as if hundreds of skiers were (rollerblading) over the ice in red & white lights.

My favorite is when it looked as though real whales were swimming across the stadium floor, complete with spurting blow holes.  Everyone cheered! 

What were clouds became trees with a light change.  It was very magical and you never knew what to expect.

And something that made us all laugh was Canadian slam poet Shane Kcyczan recited a poem entitled “We Are More”, which had many on their feet with drums banging in agreement.

One of the ways the audience helped with the transformation was we all had to wear our white ponchos.  This allowed for a unity in form and color throughout the area, and provided a limitless backdrop for the lightshow to continue.

We were guided to blink and twirl our flashlights in unison to create a diamond like sparkle that took over the arena.  We gently waved our lit candles to the melodic sounds of Sarah McLachlan, K.D. Lang, and Jodi Miller.  We beat our drums as the percussionist background to Brian Adams & Nelly Furtado.

We saluted our Canadian athletes, and stars (Donald Sutherland) and much loved Wayne Gretzky – known to us as the greatest Hockey player ever to have lived.  And in true Canadian fashion, he was humbled by the cheers and adoration and took it all in red & white stride.  He said lighting the Olympic cauldron was one of the greatest days of his life. He was joined by NBA star Steve Nash, gold medalist Nancy Greene Raine and speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan.  There was a slight hitch as one of the columns would not come up. But in the end it was no big deal.

All in all this spectacular ceremony united our country and we were able to take pride in our spirit, beliefs and culture.  Everyone was smiling, and fans from every country went to celebrate over a beer together.  Isn’t that the way we should always be with our competitors?  Sounds good to me.

It was an amazing event.  I took LOTS of photos – so go here to check them out:  and add your comments please.  I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts –please post below.

Thank you!

So…What’s next?

Well every night there are fireworks right above my house – it is seriously freaking out my dog, but I hope you all enjoy it.

There are TONS of ceremonies and music concerts and all kinds of slow to fast paced entertainment going on all around the city.  You can take a quiet stroll on Granville street downtown and cuddle with your date and soak in the lanterns from around the world – a romantic idea or go ice-skating downtown and sip a cocoa or take in a rock concert around town.

Oh – and of course the games!!!!

Olympic schedule of events:  

2010 Free Attraction Guide:

Live webcast of Olympics:

Special Events:

My photos:

Talk to you soon.

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Opening Ceremonies Walk Thru

9 Comments For This Post

  1. Beth Macy Says:

    Stefanie, a most touching and balanced look for those of us who are living through the eyes of television and those present! Thanks!

  2. Robert Allan Says:

    I am amazed!

  3. Michael Says:

    That’s so cool that you were actually there! Thanks for sharing! :)


  4. Daniel Says:

    Hi Stefanie

    Thanks for the breakdown as an attendee! I was able to watch much of opening day on tv, and I agree completely that it was absolutely tragic to start the games with Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death. I’m really glad you were able to share the anticipation, the energy, and the excitement of being in attendance to witness the opening ceremonies first hand!


  5. Steven Says:


  6. Richard Says:

    So great Stefanie! Glad you’re enjoying, despite the terrible tragedy.

    Thinking about you with excitement and envy while all this is going on, every day. You are such a great “you are there” writer!

    Hey, why aren’t we seeing you up their on that ski slope? ;)


  7. Honey Says:

    Thanks for your report. We loved watching the ceremonies on TV.


  8. Julie Genovese Says:

    Stefanie, you had me in tears. This was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read from you — so moving and so authentic. I felt like I was there and I so appreciate your finding the depth and meaning within it all. It was fun to share the upside and excitement too, so THANK YOU! Your photos were amazing as well! Were you a reporter in a past life??
    xo Julie

  9. Sahana Says:

    Wonderful experience, felt like I was a part of it. Thanks for sharing, keep writing they are something we never get to experience.


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