Think of this month's Olympic Winter Games as a hearty, multi-course meal.
The first course is scheduled for Sunday, February 8th, when the downhill daredevils fling themselves down the mountain in pursuit of glory - and medals - in alpine skiing.
But even that will be preceded by a tasty appetizer, coming in the form of the Opening Ceremony, which will be served on Saturday morning, February 7th - or Friday evening back here in the states.
In a tradition going back to the first modern Olympic Games a century ago, the 1998 Opening Ceremony will celebrate the coming together of athletes from around the world while projecting the culture of its host city.
The ceremony will commence with the ringing of the Zenkoji Temple Bells followed by the ringing of church and temple bells on five continents, which will be transmitted via satellite. This will signify the start of "spiritual time."
This will be followed by the local residents of Nagano raising sacred logs, known as Onbashira, to the four corners of the stadium to demarcate the arena's spiritual boundaries.
Then in a move that will highlight our similarities at the same time showing our cultural differences, Japan's Grand Champion Sumo Wrestler will enter the stadium and perform the "dohyo-ir" or ring-entering ceremony to drive evil spirits from the ground and purify it for the Olympic athletes. This will certainly remind many of the 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremonies when the great world champion, Muhammad Ali made an appearance to light the Olympic flame.
Finally it will be time for athletes and officials from all participating countries to show their pride by marching in the Parade of Nations. This tradition calls for Greece, the home of the ancient Olympic Games, to lead the parade. Greece is followed by the rest of the participating nations in alphabetical order, except for the host country, in this case Japan, which marches last.
In all, a record 82 countries are scheduled to participate in Nagano, 10 of which will be competing for the first time in the Olympic Winter Games.
The Olympic flame, lit in Olympia in Greece, and carried through all of Japan's prefectures will be brought into the Minami Nagano Sports Park where it will be used to light the cauldron. The cauldron will remain lit for the entirety of the Olympic Games.
The ceremonies will come to a rousing climax with the singing of the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's' Ninth Symphony. It will be led by renowned Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa. The 200-person choir will be joined by singers in five locations around the world. The singers will be brought together via satellite in what promises to be a memorable performance.
So pull the shades, turn off your phone and tune in to CBS, Friday, February 6th starting at 8PM EST and join Jim Nantz as he hosts the Opening Ceremonies from the 18th Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
Written by James Hutton