Reporting from Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, South Korea – The show was about South Korea’s past and it’s journey into the future as portrayed by five young children, but the PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony will always be remembered by its portrayal of athletes representing peace.
Sure, there were memorable moments in the athletes parade of nations including the arrival of the Team U.S.A. after the mood music switched to the Korean monster hit “Gangham Style” by Psy, and some of the athletes began to mimic the bizarre dance moves; and despite the sub-zero temperatures the Bermuda team were wearing their traditional shorts and the shirtless “Tonga guy” from Rio 2016 was back and as oily and shirtless as ever.
But when a segment featuring John Lennon’s “Imagine” with people holding candles and forming various dove patterns, and musicians around the world joining in the song – it summed up the sentiment that the athletes portrayed through the night.
The arrival of the unified Korean team under the unified flag was emotional, and significant – more so since the Games are occurring on Korean soil. Many believe that Kim Jung-un is using the act for political leverage against the United States – but it doesn’t really matter. Those athletes joined together in a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
In a further gesture to show that sport can break down walls, two members of the unified Women’s ice hockey team – one from the North and one from the South carried a torch together to the final torchbearer.
It would have been quite a moment if hey had lit the cauldron together, but that honor went instead to Olympic Champion figure skater Yuna Kim, who was an excellent choice for the role. Kim won gold at the Vancouver 2010 Games, only a year before PyeongChang won the bid to host these Games. She became a bid ambassador and actively joined the team and made important presentations to the IOC. Kim remained involved with PyeongChang 2018 during the development of the Games.
Yuna Kim is an all-around superstar in South Korea.
The night will also be remembered for the cold, and the possibility that it could have been a lot worse (take note if your are planning a trip to the Closing Ceremony).
Never mind the fear over tensions with North Korea, the recent Norovirus outbreak among security personnel or controversy over the ban of the Russian team for their doping violations – organizers were most concerned about possible extreme cold temperatures for the Opening Ceremony.
On some days earlier in the week daytime temperatures hovered near -18 degrees celsius, and there was a real fear that hypothermia could take a toll – just as it did weeks ago during a K-Pop concert in the stadium.
The severe cold spell broke just in time for the opening, with Friday’s daytime temperatures rising above the freezing mark during the day and remaining near 0 degrees celsius as crowds of up to 35,000 arrived at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium.
Still, organizers took no chances and left the cold weather contingency plan in place.
Attendees were given an extensive Opening Ceremony kit, one that was focused on keeping them safe from the elements. A package including a warm hat, ample hand and foot warmers, a seat warmer, a wind poncho, and a fleece blanket were was designed to keep everyone safe and warm. For fun, they also received an Olympic torch light and a Korean hand drum to be used as part of the show.
The Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang is a temporary outdoor facility and Friday’s Opening Ceremony was the first since Turin in 2006 to be held without a roof – and heat.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach lauded organizers for their work, and for the peace efforts with the North. Lee Hee-Beom, president of PyeongChang 2018 said the event “ushers in the Olympics Asia era”, a reference to the next two Games occurring in Tokyo and Beijing.
The Games will continue until February 25.