CALGARY, FEB. 13 -- When Robyn Perry, a diminutive 12-year-old Canadian figure skater, ran up the steps between the assembled athletes this afternoon to the lip of a huge bronze caldron to light the Olympic flame, 60,000 spectators at McMahon Stadium undoubtedly wished they had been close enough to warm their frozen toes.
A bitter north wind ushered in the XV Winter Olympics this afternoon, signalling the beginning of 16 days of competition in 10 medal sports at venues scattered about this city and the surrounding countryside. During a two-hour ceremony in 14-degree weather, with a fierce wind whipping and twisting the 57 participating nations' flags at the top of the stadium, the winter athletes of the world, dressed to kill in furs and multi-colored parkas and long car coats, found themselves in the middle of a western hoedown.
An aura of good feeling pervaded the festivities, which were not nearly as elaborate as those for the opening ceremonies of the last Olympics, in Los Angeles in 1984.
Security was as lax as it has been in recent memory; there were no metal detectors, bags and other possessions were not searched and media members were not required to show badges. Canadian officials have said they do not want their Olympics to resemble an armed camp, as most of the recent Games have. They got their wish. Today, few security officers were present and no incidents were reported.
The athletes carried on as if they were at a party. The Italian team initiated an American tradition, "The Wave," which spread around the entire structure. Even the Soviet team stood up at the right time and participated by raising their arms inside their furs. It stopped only when Frank King, president of the Calgary Olympic Organizing Committee, stepped to a microphone in front of the athletes to welcome everyone to his town.
After a half-hour of song and dance, the parade of nations began. As the delegations marched into the stadium, each was greeted by polite, if glove-muffled, applause. The crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to the Australian team when the public address announcer mentioned that it was the country's bicentennial. They cheered heartily at the sight of the delegations from Sweden, Great Britain and Mexico, saving their biggest ovations for the U.S. team, at 134 athletes the largest in the parade, and, most of all, the host Canadians, who entered from the north tunnel after all the other teams.
Five nations -- Belgium, Fiji Islands, Guam, Luxembourg and the Philippines -- have only one athlete entered in the Olympics, and each of those delegations also received strong applause. So did Jamaica, which has sent a bobsled team that has created a cult following here.
Interestingly, the Soviet team, decked out in dark fur, was followed by no more than 50 feet by the Americans. The U.S. men wore long black coats with white fedoras, while the women wore long white coats with red scarves and white hats. They looked like Chicago gangsters, circa 1930, only they seemed too jovial.
The opening ceremonies of the Olympic fortnight would have gone off without a hitch were it not for the deflating of a huge balloon representing the Rocky Mountains. As soon as a couple of dozen workers turned on the machines that were to have inflated the balloon in the center of the sand-covered football field, it sprung a leak in one of its peaks and quickly deflated. The workers carted it off, but that didn't deter the red-clad Canadian band from playing its ode to the Rockies and bowing toward where the balloon was supposed to be.
Jeanne Sauve, governor general of Canada, declared the Olympics open, just as President Reagan had done a little bit less than four years earlier in Los Angeles. International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch and King gave short speeches praising the athletes and the games.
"I'd like to thank the people of Canada, of Alberta and of Calgary for their unprecedented efforts to make these games successful," Samaranch said.
Soon, the Olympic torch entered the stadium, carried by Ken Read, a former Canadian skier, and Cathy Priestner, a silver medalist in 500-meter speed skating at the 1976 Olympics.
After running a lap around the track, they handed the torch to Perry, a promising local figure skater, who ran it up the stairs toward a 10-story frame teepee, where the caldron was set.
As she ran, she heard the athletes -- from the United States, from Finland, from Italy, from the Soviet Union -- urging her on.
"When I was running up, they were just cheering me on," she said. "It made me want to try harder to go to the Olympics."
Asked what the Olympics meant to her, she answered, "The coming together of everybody. Friendship, peace and sportsmanship."
Perry found out Monday she was to light the flame. Said her mother, Helen: "To see her come home every day with a twinkle in her eye . . . it was a joy to see it and to share it with the world."
Away from the venues, controversy continued on two fronts.
Erik Henriksen, captain of the U.S. speed skating team, said he will file another appeal over his exclusion from the team. On Friday, David Cruikshank, who won the 1,000-meter U.S. Olympic trials, was joined by Henriksen and John Baskfield in appealing to the USOC to be reinstated. Those appeals were denied and Henriksen now will try to appeal to a federal arbitrator. The team, selected by the U.S. International Speed Skating Association, is made up of Dan Jansen, Nick Thometz, Eric Flaim and Tom Cushman.
"If anyone had told me that skating in the Olympics would be like this, I'd have never come," Cushman told the Associated Press.
The IOC announced today that it would take no action against Soviet speed skater Sergei Guliaev, accused of being the middleman in a steroid smuggling operation from the Soviet Union to Norway. The IOC said there was no proof its rules had been violated.