A single snowboarder shot through the Olympic rings in a very Canadian opening salvo for the 2010 Winter Games on Friday, a feat made all the more impressive by his soaring through an indoor stadium.

Vancouver's opening ceremony is the first ever held indoors in the 86-year history of the Winter Games -- an ironic choice for a nation with more outdoors than almost anyone else as the world's second largest country.

The typical Pacific Coast rain falling outside, however, made the indoor venue a wise decision and Canada was ready to recreate its vast wilderness, indigenous roots, legendary cold and cool culture in a two-and-a-half hour spectacle.

Overshadowing the opening ceremony was the death of a Georgian luge competitor in a horrific training accident at the high-mountain venue of Whistler.

The ceremony kicked off with a countdown of Winter Olympics past as the snowboarder embarked on his journey on a mountain high displayed on video screen, dropped off a cliff and into a red-lit Canadian maple leaf.

From the heights of the arena, the daredevil shot through one of the Olympic rings in a big puff of snow-like smoke and flew through the air on to a cushioned ramp, leaving spectators in shock.

Some 3,000 athletes will march in front of the 60,000 spectators at BC Place, who will be pixels on the stadium canvas, and the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge will declare the Feb 12-28 Games open.

Much of what unfolds in the opening ceremony has been leaked in this digital age, where iPhones and social networking are more far-reaching than confidentiality agreements.

The big secret, however, remains: which Canadian will light the Olympic cauldron, the final leg of the torch's 106-day, 45,000 kilometer trek across Canada?

(Editing by Miles Evans)