The Winter Olympics - overshadowed by the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili - have opened in Vancouver as Germany gears up for another competition full of golden glory.
The games opened, as is usually the case, with much pomp and circumstance
The German team has until February 28 to meet or even beat its medal count at the last Winter Games. They have high expectations in a number of sports, with German stars looking like favorites in many disciplines.
Germany's Winter Olympic team is confident about its strength
A glittering opening ceremony at the BC Place Stadium featured native American music and dance, followed by a procession of participating nations.
The proceedings were touched by sadness at the death of Georgian luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in a training accident on Friday.
A minute of silence was observed in his honor as the Olympic and Canadian flag was lowered to half staff.
Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and three further greats jointly lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony.
Gretzky was accompanied by alpine skier Nancy Greene, speed skater Katrina LeMay Doan and basketball all-star Steve Nash in the lighting which was delayed by a technical hitch as one of the arms of the cauldron construction at BC Place did not rise from the floor.
Biathlon champion Kati Wilhelm is going for more gold
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Germany finished top of the table with 29 medals, ahead of the United States with 25 and Canada with 24.
Germany looks to be the frontrunner in the women's biathlon with the consistently dominant Kati Wilhelm seeking to add a fourth gold medal to her collection.
Wilhelm, an officer in the German military, most recently took gold in the 10-kilometer pursuit in Turin.
Wilhelm has been crowned world champion five times in various disciplines in the last nine years and represents Germany's best hope of taking top spot in the biathlon events this year.
Germany full of options in biathlon
Andrea Henkel wants to get back to winning ways
Wilhelm won't be the only German vying for glory with skis and rifles. Andrea Henkel, a two-time Olympic gold winner, aims to get back on top in Vancouver after coming away with one silver in the Turin games.
A podium sweep could be on the cards in biathlon, with Olympics newcomer Magdalena Neuner one to look out for. The 22-year-old Bavarian became the youngest-ever overall World Champion in the 2007-2008 season, having won six World Championship gold medals since her debut season four years ago.
Neuner has been hampered by illness in recent competitions, but as one of the fastest cross-country skiers in biathlon competition at the moment, she would be a good outside bet for an Olympic medal.
Bob teams looking to rediscover dominant form
Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske will hope for a smooth ride
In the bobsled competitions in Turin, Germany swept the gold medals. The men's four-man bob team, featuring Rene Hoppe, Kevin Kuske, Andre Lange and Martin Putze, scooped the top prize, while Lange and Kuske also won gold in the two-man run. In the women's competition, Sandra Kiriasis and Anja Schneiderheinze took gold as well.
Since 2006, however, the men's team has struggled with injuries and equipment problems. If they overcome their troubles, they'll likely dominate the field.
The same can be said for Sandra Kiriasis. The six-time world champion is a medal favorite but has struggled in recent competitions. She'll need to keep up her momentum of recent weeks to replicate her previous Olympics success.
Superfast skeleton debutant
Twenty-five-year-old star Marion Trott will be speeding headfirst down the track in the skeleton event. Trott broke records left and right in 2009 on a sled that is basically a cafeteria tray. She is tipped to be the one to beat, even though this is her first Olympics. Trott is already a two-time world champion, having won the women's and mixed competitions in 2009.
Germany has been mourning the fate of the country's most decorated winter Olympian, speedskater Claudia Pechstein. Pechstein failed to make the cut for the 2010 team in December. The five-time Olympic gold medalist had dominated headlines in 2009 over a controversial doping ban.
Pechstein's former Olympic teammates will be fighting to defend the women's title they earned in 2006 in the team pursuit.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Toma Tasovac