We had such high hopes. But the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was marred by the death earlier in the day of Georgia luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, a malfunctioning Olympic cauldron and a seemingly endless production that had few real moments of magic. Here's our moment-by-moment account (from end to beginning):
11:10— Gretzy is then conveyed across town in the rain to light a second cauldron. The Opening Ceremony is over, I think.
10:53 — Here comes the torch, but there seems to be a glitch. "You have four torchbearers all dressed up with no place to go," Costas says. (Actually there are five.) One of the metal legs of the cauldron doesn't come up as hockey great Wayne Gretzky and others wait. Finally they make do with what they have. Let the games begin.
10:38 — Sensing he's losing the audience, Costas says it's only 12 minutes until the Olympic torch is lighted.
10:31 — Skaters, snowboarders, a poet, some dull speeches (zzzzzzzzz). Finally, kd Lang in a white tux and bare feet breaks the monotony with a riveting rendition of Hallelujah as hologram doves fly into the sky. But is it my imagination or the late hour? She sure looks a lot like Wayne Newton.
10:00 — I mistakenly thought the ceremony would be over in time for the news. A nice recorded rendition of "Both Sides Now," imaginary wheat fields and a flying boy hold my attention. But this ain't Beijing.
9:46 — What happened to the Olympics? I feel like I mistakenly walked into a performance of Riverdance.
9:37 — Sarah McLauglin's necklace is more dazzling than her song.
9:34 — OK, I take it back as the ice floor breaks up into water with 3-D whales and salmon swimming around — all done with projections — before totem poles rise to the top of the domed stadium. Definite "wow" factor.
9:27 — The performance art portion of the Olympics ceremony kicks in, with figures walking in slow motion and flying snow. "We are sitting in a 60,000-seat snow globe," Costas says. I, personally, could use a little pyrotechnics.
9:19 — Nelly Furtado, in an off-the-shoulder blue cocktail dress, looks like she's on her way to a disco. But at least she's not wearing a parka.
9:18 — Aboriginal dancers are still dancing.
9:14 — Huger ovation for Canadian athletes. Coolest item: Their mittens have the Canadian maple leaf on the palm side, so they're waving a flag every time they wave.
9:12 — Huge ovation for U.S. athletes in ski parkas and knit caps designed by Ralph Lauren. Good marketing for Lauren: The Polo horse emblem is as large as the Olympic circles on the jacket.
9:11 — Most impressive athletes: the Aboriginal dancers stationed around the oval. They haven't stopped dancing for more than an hour.
9:00 — A friend of mine watching the ceremony thinks the caps worn by the Peru team would look better "if they put a little fur" on them. She obviously isn't a member of PETA.
8:52 — NBC shows its umpteenth ad for "Parenthood." We hate the show already, and it won't premiere until after the Olympics.
8:46— Costas — or is it Lauer? — says India has 1.1 billion and three athletes in the Olympics. That's one for every 366 million.
8:40 — Standing ovation for the team from Georgia. They decided to march even though luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died today. Bad taste award to Costas, who says, "Eight members, only seven now, it is a small delegation."
8:39 — What else to do but compare outfits as the teams march in: Estonia wins the fashion sweepstakes thus far in white snowflake-looking suits; Finland's jackets look like a Keith Haring drawing.
8:29 — Bermuda teammates looked laid-back in Bermuda shorts. But lose the wingtips and knee socks.
8:27 — Azerbaijan wins the first fashion award with its team in modish-looking paisley pants.
8:20 — Greece leads the parade of nations, with only seven athletes. Costas utters his first nuggets of the evening: Andorra is one-sixth the size of Rhode Island; Aremnia is smaller than the state of Maryland.
8:12 — Four ice sculpture totem poles and lots of dancing Native Canadians. It's going to be a long night.
8:00 — At last! Fireworks, more nice photos of Vancouver and a snowboarder get the Opening Ceremony underway. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper looks like a character in a Saturday Night Live sketch.
7:48 — Realizing we are losing our patience to get this show on the road, NBC shows an abbreviated version of the new "We are the World" video. It reminds me that a singer never looks good in supersized earphones.
7:20 — If the ceremonies are in an indoor stadium, why are ice dancers Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto wearing ski parkas and ski caps? Dunno, but the deer-print knit caps are cool.
6:58 — More pretty photos of Canadian countryside and athletes NBC hopes will captivate us — and lots of stirring music. Shaun White's carrot top head of hair looks unusually curly. Still an hour to go until the opening ceremonies begin. Excuse us while we take a power nap.
6:42 p.m. — With three-and-a-half hours of coverage, the first padded feature begins — a (yawner) travelogue about the close relationship between Canada and the U.S. from Tom Brokaw. But Vancouver sure looks good on HD.
6:30 p.m. — NBC signs on its 17-day coverage of the Winter Olympics with a somber note as Bob Costas and Matt Lauer describe the death earlier in the day of Georgia luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. Brian Williams says the tragedy sets a "tough tone to overcome."