That's good you found a fix...thanks for posting it.
I once had a similar problem and had given up finding a solution.
Then, I got rid of AVG anti-virus one day only because I decided to switch to Avira.
As if by magic, Word opened instantly after that. (I had even tried disabling AVG back then but it made no difference).
Nothing I had tried ever worked until I got rid of AVG.
Anyway, I'm a little OT, since your problem had nothing to do with AVG.
By the way, I did rename the normal.dot file, to normal.old (Just for the heck of it), and I noticed that it was recreated again once I started Word (At which time I just deleted the original version).
Anyway, thanks again for posting this...may need that hint some day down the road. --
I had a life once.....now I have a Computer and a Modem.