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Opening Ceremony Starts Friday, February 12, 2010

Coverage Starts at 7:30pm ET/PT

Canada: Ready for its Olympic moment

Hosted by Vancouver, but these Games belong to a nation

VANCOUVER — Framed by sea and sky, a striking tableau that would be all the more brilliant if maybe the weather turned colder and snowier, the 2010 Winter Olympics get underway here Friday, the stage set for a Games designed to elicit but one sure response:

Whoa, Canada.

That caricature of the earnest, pleasant, well-meaning Canadian?

The Canadians have aggressively and repeatedly asserted their intent is to win more 2010 Games medals than anyone else, which would be an Olympic first. And, eh, they just may – though Germany, Norway, Russia and the Americans come to Vancouver deep and strong as well.

 “The last gold rush around here took place in 1858, I believe,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said as part of an address here Tuesday night to the International Olympic Committee. “I predict the next gold rush will begin within one week.”

And then, of course, there is what for many here is the holy grail: gold in men’s hockey.

“There isn’t a Canadian out there who doesn’t have their fingers crossed that on the last day of the Games Canada wins a gold medal in men’s hockey — after winning a gold medal in women’s hockey, in a perfect world,” Vancouver 2010 Chief Executive John Furlong said here earlier this week.

Games organizers, banking on Canadian medals – literally, for the Vancouver 2010 committee has helped fund a win-medals program worth more than $100 million – hope these Games make for moments of inspiration when all north of the 49th parallel are unified in Canadian-ness, however elusive the definition of such a thing might be.

“We very much wanted this project to be a human adventure,” Furlong said, one that would “formally unite the country” and “really let Canadians feel they were part of something great.”

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