Olympics kicks off with unified Korean team raising peace hopes

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games kicked off in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Friday with an opening ceremony themed around peace and future as athletes of the two Koreas marched together under a unification flag drawing thunderous applause from those assembled at the 35,000-seat stadium.

The ceremony saw the confluence of Korea’s traditional and modern ethos celebrating harmony and convergence and underscoring peace hopes of the people in the peninsula.

Held under the slogan, ‘Passion, Connected’, PyeongChang 2018, which will run through Feb. 25, will be the largest Winter Olympics ever drawing 2,920 athletes from 92 nations competing for a record 102 gold medals at 12 venues in PyeongChang and neighboring cities of Gangneung and Jeongseon.

The ceremony, put together by executive creative director Song Seung-whan, starred five child actors, all residents of Gangwon province, where PyeongChang is located. The five children represented the five Olympic Rings, and the colours of their costumes symbolised the five elements — fire, water, wood, metal and earth.

It followed the children as they embarked on a time travel on a quest for peace. The performances were put on hold momentarily as Taegeukgi, the South Korean national flag, was carried into the stadium by eight local athletes.

The Parade of Athletes followed with participants from 92 nations walking into the main stadium. Greece, the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games, was the first nation to enter the stadium.

South Korean bobsleigh pilot, Won Yun-jong, and North Korean women’s hockey player, Hwang Chung-gum, carried the Korean Unification Flag, which showed an image of the Korean Peninsula coloured in blue against a white background.

It has long been the symbol of a unified Korea, and athletes and officials from the two countries waved the flag in unison as they joined fellow Olympians in the stadium.

South Korea is fielding 144 athletes, the highest number ever for a Winter Olympics, and North Korea has sent 22 athletes, also an all-time Winter Games record.

South Korea aims to win at least eight gold medals, to set its Winter Olympics record, and finish in the top four for the first time.

Yonhap contributed to this story