The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off with a bang on Friday, Feb. 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea, as the world’s best athletes gathered to mark the start of the games. Competitors from all around the globe represented their nations by rallying together under their countries’s flags, with a few notable exceptions.
South Korea and North Korea, two countries that are technically at war, marched together under a “united Korea” flag that shows the entire, undivided Korean Peninsula. During the games, they’ll come together again for a joint women’s ice hockey team, their biggest show of unity in decades.
Russian athletes also marched under a neutral flag, wearing neutral uniforms, which they were required to do to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics after Russia was barred because of a doping scheme.
The games have barely begun, and they’re already full of drama. Keep scrolling for the highlights from Friday’s opening ceremony.
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The show began with a dazzling fireworks displaying, lighting up the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. Soon after, a pre-recorded segment played that featured five children from the region who were chose to tell the story of the history of Korea. The footage then cut to the stadium, where the kids and a white tiger, a culturally symbolic animal for Korea, entered the arena.
The children danced alongside the tiger, as well as other mythical creatures, to continue depict how South Korea came to be. Needless to say, the cute kids, and the spectacular dancing, distracted spectators from the frigid cold.
A drum performance became patriotic when the large group of musicians’s costumes transformed into the colors of the South Korean flag. It was the most elaborately choreographed part of the ceremony with an emphasis on group dynamics, which is very important to the Koreans. The idea of the group being more valuable than the whole is stressed in Asian culture.
The moment that everyone was waiting for officially took place: Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong shook hands with South Korea’s president in a historic meeting.
Men and women martial artists lightened the mood by showing off their impressive karate skills.
Before the parade of nations, the adorable Rainbows Children’s Choir sang the South Korean national anthem. Afterwards, Greece came out first, as is tradition, with the rest of the nations following in alphabetical order according to the Korean alphabet and Korea walking in last.
As the competing Olympic teams for this year’s winter games were introduced, the crowd went wild when team U.S.A., led by Olympic luger Erin Hamlin, paraded onto the stage. And, shirtless Polynesian tongan Pita Taufatofua also caused quite the stir.
Finally, the massive Olympic Cauldron was lit, producing another major roar from the stands.