The curtain goes up on Friday for the Cultural Olympiad, a two month-long celebration of arts and culture being held in conjunction with the 2010 Games.

The festival kicks off with The Fiddle And The Drum, a ballet featuring the music of legendary Canadian songstress Joni Mitchell at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The show will set the stage for 180 other performances and exhibitions taking place around Metro Vancouver and Whistler until the Paralympics end in late March.

Some of the free and ticketed performances and events include BASH’d: A Gay Rap Opera, Rick: The Rick Hansen Story, and Hal Willner's Neil Young Project, featuring performances by Lou Reed, Ron Sexsmith, Iron and Wine and Broken Social Scene.

There will even be a theatrical reading of excerpts from Homer’s Iliad, while Canadian musicians like Stars, Hey Rosetta!, Feist, City and Colour, Joel Plaskett, K’Naan and Blue Rodeo will be doing shows around town.

Robert Kerr, program director of the Olympiad, said the idea was to showcase the diversity of talent that’s coming out of Vancouver and Canada to Games visitors.

“The Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad is the first Winter Games to host a multi-year Cultural Olympiad,” Kerr said.

“(It’s) distinguished by its strong contemporary focus, diversity of content, strong collaborative approach with community arts and cultural organizations, and groundbreaking digital program.”