The 19th Winter Olympics will get underway in Salt Lake City, Utah, later tonight (2am Irish time) with eight Irish athletes involved. The opening ceremony will get proceedings underway with Tamsen McGarry, Ireland's first female skier, carrying the Irish flag.

American president George Bush will be present at the ceremony, for which the International Olympic Committee have given special dispensation for a group of American athletes and New York firefighters to carry the stars and stripes, which was rescued from the wreckage of the World Trade Centre, around the stadium behind all the competing nations.

However, Olympic officals have decided they will not hoist the symbolic flag at the ceremony as was orginially planned because it is so delicate and may not stand up to the high winds forecast for Salt Lake City tonight.

Filed by Amanda Fennelly