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For as long as I can remember, I've enjoyed watching the Summer and Winter Olympics, particularly the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.  Tonight, I settled down to watch the opening festivities from Torino, knowing that the Italians would put on quite a show.  I wasn't disappointed in the least.

The presentation included several interesting surprises, the first for me was a Ferrari race car doing donuts on a makeshift track.  I was certain the driver was laying down the Olympic rings with his skidmarks but the smoke didn't clear enough to find out before NBC went to a commercial break.  Then, I was surprised to see actresses Sophia Loren and Susan Sarandon helping to carry the official Olympic flag.  I also recognized South American author Isabelle Allendre (I've been intrigued by her since reading a few book reviews, although I have yet to buy one of her novels — there's an Albuquerque connection with her as well, but I can't remember what it is) plus Somaly Mam of Cambodia.  This last woman campaigns for women's rights in that country, particularly as it relates to child sex workers/slaves; I'd read an article about her just last night in Transitions Abroad magazine.

But the biggest highlight for me was Peter Gabriel singing "Imagine" by John Lennon (probably my favorite song by the former Beatle, who was murdered twenty-five years ago).  When I was in high school, my favorite band was Genesis, particularly the 1970-75 period with Gabriel as lead singer (Phil Collins was merely the drummer for most of that time).  I still love that music, but I've become an even bigger fan of Gabriel's solo work and own virtually all of his many DVD's (he puts on some of the most spectacular concerts of anybody else on the road).  So it was a huge surprise when the stage rose with him sitting at the piano with several of his long-time solo bandmates.  (Immediately before, Lennon's widow Yoko Ono had warbled through a short speech and quoted a bit of "Imagine".)  Peter Gabriel gave a very solid version of it; I really wish I'd recorded the Opening Ceremonies now but I'm sure the performance is probably already available for download from one of my favorite BitTorrent sites.

Somehow, I managed to miss the lighting of the torch (I was sitting on my sofa working on my laptop) but I perked up when Luciano Pavoratti sang to close the ceremonies.  I've admired him for a long time as well (I do enjoy quite a large variety of music as you no doubt can tell from reading my posts...).

All in all, a fine addition to the long tradition of spectacular Opening Ceremonies.  I think this one will stick in my mind as the grandest I've seen, if only for the Peter Gabriel performance.  (The only one I can remember being truly disappointed in was either an opener or closer at a Winter Games in France some years ago; I'll have to look it up to find out exactly which one that was.)