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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Warm-hearted opening Friday for Korea’s Winter Olympic Games

By Patrick Frater, | Feb 09, 2018

LOS ANGELES - Earmuffs, extra thick anoraks, and a stadium where LED lighting appeared to have replaced the spectators, were the order of the day in South Korea at the Opening Ceremony of the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

Athletes marched around a center circle and a ring of dancers who performed energetically, while in the hills nearby there were volleys of fireworks and torch-bearing skiers.

The games are being held in PyeongChang, South Korea against a backdrop of political and strategic maneuvering. North and South Korea are currently enjoying something of a thaw in their normally frosty relations. Earlier in the day, South Korean President, Moon Jae-in shook hands and briefly chatted with North Korea’s figurehead leader Kim Yong-nam.

VIPs watched the parade of athletes from a glass box, which included Moon, Kim and, at one point, Kim Jo-yong, sister of North Korea’s de facto leader Kim Jong-un. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was seated next to Japan’s Shinzo Abe in the same enclosure.

Politics were momentarily set aside when the unified Korean team made their entrance in white padded coats and black slacks. They appeared huddled together, but it was not clear if that was caused by an overflow of amity, the extreme cold, or their large numbers.

“United we are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us,” said Thomas Bach IOC President, to a round of applause.

Other large cheers were heard for the six countries represented for the first time, and athletes from small, or tropical, territories Jamaica, Eritrea, Hong Kong and even (equatorial) Singapore.

And, Pita Taufatofua, was back. The oiled-up athlete from Tonga went shirtless two years ago at the opening of the summer games in Brazil, and became an Internet sensation in the process. He went topless again in the Korean Alps, despite the sub-zero conditions.

Other parts of the ceremony ranged from high-tech light formations and clever use of projection mapping, through to flag bearers wearing Korean traditional costume. Least convincing was a creaking four-person rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

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