2018 Winter Olympics kicks off in Pyeongchang
The laid-back county of PyeongChang turned into the world's center stage as the 23rd Winter Olympics in the Republic of Korea (ROK) officially raised its curtains with a dazzling opening ceremony featuring Korean cultures and cutting-edge technologies.
Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. [Photo: VCG/Getty Images/Jamie Squire]
Some 43,000 spectators in the open-roof Olympic Stadium watched the performances in freezing temperatures in what may be the coldest opening ceremony in 24 years.
'Peace in Motion'
Themed "Peace in Motion," the ceremony began with five children walking into the Olympic Stadium with holding up the model of a white tiger, which serves as the inspiration for the mascot of the PyeongChang Games.
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, South Korea, Feb. 9, 2018. [Photo: Xinhua]
The white tiger, one of the four guardians in South Korean culture, symbolizes the spirits of the South Korean people while the children represent the Olympic rings as well as the five basic elements of nature.
The artistic segment included three parts: The Countdown, the Land of Peace, and the Harmony of the Cosmos.
Unification flag, neutral flag
The joint team of DPRK and South Korea walked behind the unification flag, signifying peace between the two sides.
Chung Gum Hwang and Yunjong Won lead the combined delegation of North Korea and South Korea during the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. [Photo: IC/USA TODAY Sports/Rob Schumacher]
The PyeongChang Games marks the third time the two Koreas walk under the "Korean Unification" flag in Olympics history. It was also the first joint march for the two countries at an opening ceremony of an international competition in 12 years due to the turmoil and tensions between the two sides.
The DPRK and South Korea announced the joint entrance in early January as well as a united women's ice hockey team.
The first joint Korean march took place at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. They also marched jointly at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and the 2006 Torino Winter Games.
After that, they walked in together at two Asian Summer Games, two Asian Winter games, a Summer Universiade and an East Asian Games.
The last time was at the 2007 Asian Winter Games held in China.
Another highlight of the entrance ceremony was the Russian athletes marching in under a neutral flag. Russia was banned from the Games due to a systematic doping scandal during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. But the IOC has allowed a group of Russians considered clean to take part.
Athletes from China march into the stadium during the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. [Photo: IC/USA TODAY Sports/ Rob Schumacher]
Team China has 87 athletes taking part in the entrance ceremony with two-time Olympic champion Zhou Yang as the flagbearer.
The Games are scheduled to run from Feb. 9 to 25 with more than 2,900 athletes from 91 countries set to compete in 15 sports disciplines.
It is the first time that the ROK has hosted the Winter Olympics and the second Olympic Games held in the country since the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.