B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell officially opened the Richmond Olympic Oval on Friday. ((CBC))

The Richmond Olympic Oval opened to the public for the first time Friday, 14 months before the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games begin.

Hundreds of people, including Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, took part in the opening ceremonies.

"This world-class sporting facility is a legacy not only of the Olympics, but also of the innovation of British Columbia's construction and forest industries," Campbell said in a news release.

"The iconic design of the 'wood wave' roof is made from pine beetle enhanced wood. Like the Bird's Nest stadium or the Water Cube in Beijing, the Richmond Oval will be a lasting symbol, known around the world."

The one-of-a-kind structure, home of speedskating for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, is the only major architectural legacy of the Games.

"You can now fully appreciate the legacies that the Oval will provide for Richmond, for our province and, indeed, for our nation," Brodie told the crowd.


The Richmond Olympic Oval will be host to 14 days of competition during the 2010 Winter Games. ((CBC))

The $178-million structure hosts its first test event for elite athletes in 2009, but will be used by the public for skating and other activities in the meantime.

During the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the Richmond Oval will be host to 14 days of competition and 12 medal events. It will also be home to the anti-doping laboratory for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

After the Olympics are over, the City of Richmond will use the venue as a community centre.

Krista Schaap was one of many who waited for hours in the rain to get in to see the opening ceremonies.

"It's amazing and its ours, it's for our city," she said. "We're going to do so much with it and the way it's brought our city together, standing out there with all the Richmondites, it's really neat."

The building will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday with opening events including public skating under the massive, column-free ceiling, lined entirely with wood harvested from pine beetle-killed trees.