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Image: U.S. team marches in Opening Ceremony
Adrian Dennis  /  AFP - Getty Images
Athletes and members of the U.S. delegation, including flagbearer and luger Mark Grimmette attend the opening ceremony for the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Friday, Feb. 12.
updated 2/17/2010 3:04:54 PM ET 2010-02-17T20:04:54

Television ratings show a strong initial appetite for the Vancouver Olympics on NBC.

The Nielsen Co. said an estimated 32.6 million people watched Friday's opening ceremony. That's up 48 percent from the 22.2 million people who watched the first night of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Only the Lillehammer games of 1994 — better known as the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Olympics — had a larger U.S. audience for its opening ceremony. Besides the pageantry, Friday's first broadcast also had a big story with the death of a luger during a training run.

The first night in Canada even approached the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Games in viewer interest. That ceremony had an average audience of 34.2 million people.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft.)

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  1. Fireworks and confetti kick off the closing ceremony for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia Feb. 28.

    Catch the latest news, results, video from Vancouver exclusively on NBCOlympics.com. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Canada's Sidney Crosby (87) is congratulated by Drew Doughty (8) and Chris Pronger (20) after Crosby scored the game-winning goal in the overtime period of a men's gold medal ice hockey game against USA. (Chris O'meara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. USA's Erika Lawler watches the scoreboard during the medal ceremony after Canada beat USA 2-0 to win the women's gold medal ice hockey game. (Gene J. Puskar / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gold medalist, China's Meng Wang (L) celebrates with her country flag and compatriot China's Yang Zhou at the end of the Ladies' 1000 m short-track final at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.. (Yuri Kadobnov / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. France's Ted Piccard (2nd R) and Daron Rahlves (R) of the US collide during the 1/8 final race during the Men's Freestyle Ski Cross. (Adrian Dennis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. John Morris and Ben Hebert of Canada celebrate after winning the gold medal against Norway after the Curling Men's Gold medal game. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. France's Thibaut Fauconnet, center, and Germany's Tyson Heung, left, crash out as USA's Apolo Anton Ohno, right, takes evasive action during the second race of the men's 500m quarterfinals short track skating competition. (Ivan Sekretarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo react after performing their pair's free program during the figure skating competition. Shen and Zhao won gold. (Amy Sancetta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Canada forward Jayna Hefford (16) scores a goal against Slovakia goalie Zuzana Tomcikova, left, in the second period of a preliminary round women's ice hockey game. Also defending for Slovakia is Petra Orszaghova, center. Canada beat Slovakia 18-0. (Bruce Bennett / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. USA's Bobby Ryan, center, celebrates after scoring against Switzerland goalie Jonas Hiller, left, during a men's ice hockey preliminary game. (Matt Slocum / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. USA's Tony Benshoof competes in the men's Luge Singles run at Whistler Sliding Center. (Oliver Lang / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Lindsey Vonn of the United States speeds down the course during the women's super-G on Saturday, Feb. 20. She won the bronze medal, adding to her gold in the women's downhill and boosting the total number of medals won by the U.S. alpine team to seven. (Charlie Krupa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Russia's Alexander Tretyakov hits the padding at the end of his second heat in the men's skeleton event. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. (L-R) Shaun White of the United States reacts with fellow American Scott Lago after White wins the gold medal and Lago the bronze in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe. White won the gold medal with a score in his previous run and performed his much anticipated Double McTwist during a victory lap. (Cameron Spencer / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Sweden's Anja Paerson crashes near the finish of the Women's downhill. (Gero Breloer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Curtis Tomasevicz, center, celebrates with his Team USA teammates, left to right, Steve Mesler, Justin Olsen, and driver Steven Holcomb after winning a gold medal in the four-man bobsled competition. (Jeff Mcintosh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Switzerland's Anais Morand and Antoine Dorsaz perform their pairs free program during the figure skating competition. (Ivan Sekretarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Bode Miller of the USA during the Men's Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom. Miller skied out and was disqualified. (Francis Bompard/agence Zoom / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Dutch coach Gerard Kemkers, left, encourages Netherland's Sven Kramer, right, during the men's 10,000 meter speed skating race. Lee Seung-hoon of South Korea won a stunning gold medal in men's 10,000-meter speed skating Tuesday when overwhelming favorite Sven Kramer made an amateurish mistake, failing to switch lanes just past the midway point of the race, and was disqualified. (Chris Carlson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Slovakia's Veronika Sabolova takes her second run during the women's singles luge. (Tony Gentile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Magdalena Neuner of Germany celebrates winning the gold medal in the Women's Biathlon 10km Pursuit. (Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Shannon Bahrke of the US sticks her tongue out while jumping the second ramp during the Women's Moguls Freestyle Skiing Final at Cypress Mountain. (Adrian Dennis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Japanese speed skaters train for the team pursuit at the Richmond Olympic Oval. (Kevin Frayer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. South Korea's Kim Yu-Na begins to cry after performing in the women's free skating figure skating event. Yu-Na won the gold medal. (Gary Hershorn / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada celebrate after receiving their gold medal scores for the free dance portion of the Ice Dance competition. (Jasper Juinen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. The sled belonging to Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia is seen just after he crashed during a training run for the men's singles luge. (Michael Sohn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. (L to R) Haley Irwin #21 and Meghan Agosta #2 of Canada lie on the ice and celebrate winning the gold medal with a beer and a cigar following their team's 2-0 victory during the ice hockey women's gold medal game between Canada and USA. (Alex Livesey / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A snowboarder flies thru the Olympic Rings during the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics at BC Place.

    Catch the latest news, results, video from Vancouver exclusively on NBCOlympics.com. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:Vancouver 2010 Olympics
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