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TV Preview: Olympics Opening Ceremony

The 2002 Olympic Winter Games begin on NBC with exclusive live coverage of the Opening Ceremony Friday, February 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT from 50,000-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

NBC’s Opening Ceremony coverage (8:00-11:30 p.m. ET) will be anchored by primetime host Bob Costas and “Today” show co-host Katie Couric, who will be joined by Olympic Special Correspondent Jim McKay, on loan from ABC. The Opening Ceremony coverage kicks off NBC’s record 375.5 hours of “Complete Olympics” coverage over 17 days across NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and NBCOlympics.com.

Headliner groups performing at the Opening Ceremony include Sting, the Dixie Chicks, R. Kelly, LeAnn Rimes and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Utah’s own Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony will also perform.

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“These performers will help celebrate our theme ‘Light the Fire Within’ and the power of the Olympics in what promises to be the show of a lifetime,” said Mitt Romney, SLOC president and CEO. “At the Opening Ceremony we will salute the passion and the courage of the athletes who will gather in Salt Lake to compete in a spirit of harmony and spirit of friendship.”

Greece leads the parade of 77 nations (as dictated by Olympic protocol). As host nation, the United States is the final country to enter the stadium.

The culmination of the Opening Ceremony will be the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, a tradition described by Ebersol as, “the most inspirational moment in sports.” The identity of the person who will light the torch is kept a secret until the moment arrives.

“The world coming together at the Opening Ceremony is the most impressive single sight in the world,” said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports & Olympics and executive producer of NBC’s coverage. “It gives you the impression, even for a brief moment, that we can all get along.”

“Every Olympic athlete I’ve ever talked to says it was the experience of a lifetime,” said McKay, who will be working his 12th Olympics. “To their surprise, many are moved to tears when they walk into the stadium.”

Couric will be working her fourth Olympics and third Opening Ceremony. “It is a real thrill for me to once again be co-hosting the Opening Ceremony coverage with Bob and Jim,” said Couric. “While this event has always been one of great emotion, patriotism and international solidarity, in light of what is going on in the world I expect it will take on an even greater significance. I am honored to be a part of such a special evening.”

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Reporters Jimmy Roberts, Andrea Joyce, Lewis Johnson, Beth Ruyak, Chris Wragge and NBC News correspondent Robert Hager will also contribute to the Opening Ceremony coverage.

Did You Know?

These are the first Olympic Winter Games to be held in the U.S. since the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid…Salt Lake City, with a population of 1.6 million, is the largest city ever to host the Winter Games…the 2002 Winter Games program features 78 events (10 more than in Nagano in 1998) in seven sports/15 disciplines at 10 venues…a total of 2,530 athletes (a record 959 women) will compete in Salt Lake…there are 26,000 SLOC volunteers.

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