The time for PyeongChang
If the massive fireworks display, artistic segments featuring puppets, dancers, white tigers and drummers, and the parade of athletes from 91 different countries hadn’t already announced the arrival of the XXIII Winter Olympic Games, IOC President Thomas Bach left no doubt when he addressed the crowd of 35,000 at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium (and millions more worldwide) during Friday’s opening ceremony.
“This is the moment that we have all been waiting for: the first Olympic Games on snow and ice in the Republic of Korea,” Bach announced. “This is the moment that the organizing committee, the public authorities and so many people have been working for with great dedication and commitment. You all can be very proud tonight. Now is the time for PyeongChang!”
The hosts were certainly ready for their moment in the spotlight. Here are several highlights from a riveting opening ceremony.
A show of unity
The delegations from North Korea and South Korea marched into the parade of athletes under the Korean unification flag, which was held by South Korean bobsleigh athlete Won Yun-jong and North Korean ice hockey player Hwang Chung-gum. In an even further show of Korean unity, the sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during an opening ceremony that featured a performance called “The Land of Peace.”
The Korean team’s arrival may have been quietly symbolic, but Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua made the most dynamic entrance during the parade of athletes. Just as he did at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, the taekwondo athlete turned cross-country skier entered the stadium shirtless with an oiled chest and his nation’s traditional outfit despite the -3 degrees Celsius temperature.
The order of countries, which began with Greece per Olympic tradition, followed the order of the Korean alphabet, putting Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and the Netherlands at the front of the nations being introduced. While that may have seemed a bit out of sorts to Western audiences, the parade’s showcase was a celebration of athletes from all over the world, including Jamaica, whose delegation celebrated its arrival by high-stepping, and the United States, who entered to South Korean pop star Psy’s international pop smash “Gangnam Style.”
There was no shortage of creativity on display throughout the opening ceremony, which began with a countdown featuring five children following a white tiger as they danced in hope of peace. The next segment, “Land of Peace,” featured puppets and dancers and a massive light show that led into the “Taeguk: Harmony of the Cosmos” segment, which showcased hundreds of drummers and dancers interpreting elements of the Korean peninsula’s history. Those segments finally concluded with a performance of the South Korean national anthem by the Rainbow Children’s Choir.
After the parade of athletes, there were more performances, including a rendition of Korean folk song Arirang and then another artistic segment called “All for the Future,” which showed the five children at the beginning of the show evolving into adults who will shape the world’s technology. Following IOC President Bach’s remarks, Korean musicians Jeon In-kwon and Ha Hyun-woo performed a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.
The lighting of the Olympic cauldron
The mystery of who was going to have the honours of lighting the Olympic cauldron was finally solved when 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medallist Yuna Kim received the torch from two members of the mixed North and South Korean women’s hockey team, Chung Su-hyon of North Korea and Park Jong-ah of South Korea.