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Pyrotechnics And Peace Highlight Olympic Opening Ceremony In Korea

By Karen Rosen | Feb. 09, 2018, 10 a.m. (ET)

Flag bearer Erin Hamlin leads the team in the Parade of Athletes during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 9, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.


PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- The Parade of Athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 was a living, breathing representation of its theme: "Peace in Motion."

The countries came out according to the Korean alphabet, so Team USA was the 26th to enter PyeongChang Olympic Stadium to the sound of "Gangnam Style."

Led by flag bearer Erin Hamlin, a four-time Olympian and Olympic bronze medalist in luge, Team USA danced and waved to the crowd in the pentagon-shaped stadium, fitting for the five Olympic rings.

"The best part about the Opening Ceremony is the first step out of the tunnel wherever we're coming from into the stadium," said John Daly, a three-time Olympian in skeleton.

Added teammate Matt Antoine, who was marching in his second athletes parade, "It's that one moment where you're the spotlight of the entire ceremony."

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They wore heated jackets, which came in handy with the temperature of 32 degrees, which was warmer than had been originally forecast.  However, there was a biting wind.

"I love the outfits,” said Olympic champion skier Lindsey Vonn. "I think we're all going to look very American."

Team USA is the largest contingent with 244 athletes – 135 men and 109 women – eclipsing the 230 representing the United States in Sochi four years ago.

In a bid for peace and unity, the host country, South Korea, marched in with North Korea with an athlete from each country jointly holding the Korean peninsula flag.

The man who braved the elements like no other was Pita Taufatofua, the flag bearer and only athlete from Tonga. Competing at the Rio Games in taekwondo, he was shirtless and oiled, causing a sensation. A cross-country skier here, Taufatofua initially said that he would cover up. "I want to still be alive for my race," he said.

But Taufatofua got out the oil again, marching in shirtless and wearing a traditional skirt with a big grin on his face.

Like previous opening ceremonies, this one told a story, with five children following a white tiger on a quest for peace.

The pyrotechnic heavy vignettes were a showcase for Korean culture and couture.

Korean pop stars sang John Lennon’s “Imagine" with dancers holding lights forming a dove of peace. Instead of releasing doves, lighted representations of the birds flew through the stands. That prevented the fiasco that occurred at the opening of the Olympic Games Seoul 1988 when doves alighted on the edge of the cauldron, which did not end well.

For PyeongChang, two female ice hockey players from the joint North-South team carried a torch up of the lighted stairs of what looked like a ski slope. There was a sheet of ice at the top and Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim skated out, spinning gracefully in white. She then accepted the torch and lit the cauldron, with fireworks spraying across the sky.


Related Athletes

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Matt Antoine

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John Daly

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Erin Hamlin

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Lindsey Vonn