Fireworks light up the sky over Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games featuring athletes from 77 countries.

Tonight's the night. The 2010 Winter Olympics get under way in Vancouver, Canada. And hundreds of pundits are ready to leap into action.

Writing for Newsweek, the cerebral curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens fired an early volley in a piece titled "Fool's Gold." Hitchens writes, "Meanwhile, with millions of other don't-care people, I won't be able to escape the pulverizing tedium of the events themselves. Global warming never seemed a more inviting prospect."

In other words, humbug.

Still, Hitchens' perspective is shared by more than a few. And indeed athletic events — including the Olympics — have often lived down to expectations. As in most ventures with epic scope — politics and religion come to mind — the Olympic Games may bring out the grime in people, but they also bring out what is grand in them.

In 2002, Salt Lake City had the ugly bribery scandal, for instance, and the unfortunate riot at the "beer garden." But there was also the wonder of the artwork of Allen Hauser and Dale Chihuly, the high-minded opening ceremonies that celebrated the state's American Indian tribes and the great spectacle of an entire world tuning in on the same wave length.

And that doesn't count what the athletes themselves did. The events — filled with joy and despair — only deepened the colors of the Olympic aura.

Now, in Vancouver, the great Olympic wheel is in motion again. The stage is set for more tears and triumphs.

Will Apolo Ohno nail his sixth medal and become the most bejeweled American winter olympian in history?

Will the wild child Shaun White unveil new acrobatic moves on the snowboard that take one's breath away?

Will skaters from troubled, smaller countries — like South Korea — rise to the occasion and rule the world for a fleeting moment?

Hitchens would say such concerns are not worthy of a serious person.

We say they are moments that produce a burst of exuberance and kindle dreams in the minds of the young. They are moments, shared by the world, that throw a dash of delight into the human condition.

And those moments will begin tonight.

Will you be with Christopher Hitchens or Apolo Ohno?

Feel free to chose.