The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off with a record-breaking 1,218 drones forming an incredible set of Olympic rings in the night sky. Amazing and elaborate multi-coloured fireworks lit up the dark during Pyeongchang’s official curtain-raiser, as athletes from all over the globe were welcomed to South Korea.
Thousands of spectators, including a squad of more than 200 North Korean cheerleaders, packed the freezing stadium for the opening ceremony today where temperatures dipped to -15C. It is set to be the biggest ever Winter Olympic Games to date with more than 2,900 athletes from 92 countries competing.
And in extraordinary show of unity, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with US Vice President Mike Pence sitting nearby.
Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War, and is part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony followed the story line of children wandering through a mythical landscape and discovering a world where people live in peace and harmony.
Members of a delegation from North Korea watched the performance called ‘The Land of Peace’ and looked on as from high as past South Korean athletes paraded a large southern flag.
The Greek contingent headed the parade of athletes into the open-air stadium, followed by the other delegations in order according to the Korean alphabet. Pence stood to welcome the U.S. athletes as the Korean pop hit Gangnam Style blared around the stadium, sparking the ‘Horse Dance’ in the crowd and among the volunteers.
As the athletes made their way around the track, one of the biggest cheers was reserved for muscle-bound Tongan Pita Taufatofua, who repeated his famed Rio Games entrance by marching in shirtless, oiled up and wearing a traditional skirt – this time in sub-zero temperatures. Another flag-bearer who eschewed warm clothing was Bermuda’s Tucker Murphy wore the territory’s traditional red shorts.
Samaneh Beyrami Baher blinked back tears at the head of Iran’s four-strong athletic delegation, and minutes later the crowd erupted as athletes from North and South Korea marched together under the unification flag for the first time at an Olympics since 2006. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach then handed the podium to Moon, who declared the Olympics officially open and lauded the joint march of the two Koreas as a ‘powerful message’. ‘We thank you,’ he said. ‘We are all touched by this wonderful gesture. We all join and support you in your message of peace.’
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