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Curtain rises on Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

February 9, 2018

The Winter Olympics are underway in South Korea. Almost 3,000 athletes from 92 countries, including 169 "Olympic Athletes from Russia," and both Koreas appearing under one flag, took part in the opening ceremony.

2018 Winter Olympic Games - Eröffnungsfeier - Olympisches Feuer
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/F. Fife

The 23rd Winter Olympics are underway in Pyeongchang after a spectacular opening ceremony that saw Korean athletes enter under one flag.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in a historic moment. Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. US Vice President Mike Pence and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier were among the other dignitaries in attendance.

The message throughout the two-hour extravaganza at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium was peace and unity, as these traditional Korean values were expressed in a futuristic display of lights and dance.

The international Olympic Committee (IOC) has allowed 169 clean Russian athletes to compete at the Games, and they entered the stadium under a neutral flag, carried by a volunteer from the Olympic organizing committee.

IOC President Thomas Bach referenced the issue of doping in a his brief address.

"You can only really enjoy your Olympic performance if you respect the rules, and stay clean," he said "Only then will your lifelong memories be the memories of a true and worthy Olympian."

The Games are to feature 102 events across 15 different disciplines, including the addition of of big air snowboarding, mass-start speed skating, mixed doubles curling and mixed-team alpine skiing to the Winter Olympic program.

The event runs until February 25 with events taking place mainly at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang.

Winter Olympics 2018 opening ceremony - as it happened:

14:09 The flame is lit and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang are underway! 

14:00 The Olympic flame has entered the stadium, carried by Korean torchbearers. They will light the flame in a few moments.

13:54 We are now entering the final salvo before the flame is lit and the Games are officially underway. The Olympic anthem is being performed now.

13:49 John Lennon’s Imagine is performed by a group of musicians including Jeon In-kwon and Ha Hyun-woo. This section is called 'Peace in Motion'

13:47 In case you missed it, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has shaken hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a historic meeting during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Kim Yo-jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. She's part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony.

13:40 In his stadium address, Thomas Bach appeals for a Games free of doping. "You can only really enjoy your Olympic performance if you respect the rules, and stay clean," he said "Only then will your lifelong memories be the memories of a true and worthy Olympian."

Bach also remarks on the power of sport bringing the two Koreas together. "A great example of this unifying power is the joint march here tonight of the two teams from the National Olympic Committees of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We thank you."

13:30 The ceremony is running like clockwork. At exactly 13:30 CET — 21.30 local time — IOC president Thomas Bach is welcomed to the podium to make his opening statement. Then in 30 minutes we'll see the ignition of the Olympic flame.

13:26 The visuals have been nothing short of spectacular, as we see the five Olympic rings beamed into the night sky.

13:20 We are now watching a performance of Arirang, a Korean folk song considered the unofficial national anthem of Korea.

13:15 Korea are the last nation out as we head towards another expression of art by the Korean performers. Incidentally, the host nation have 121 athletes competing at the Games, while North Korea have just 10.

Read more: North Korea welcomed to Olympic Village with national anthem

13:12 The big moment. North Korean and South Korean athletes enter the stadium under the Korean unification flag. it's all smiles as South Korean president Moon Jae-in applauds with Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, also applauding just behind him. It's a symbolic moment for a nation divided by political tension.

13:07 Just a little bit of information on the stadium being used for tonight's event. The 35,000-seat arena was built specifically for these Games and is situated about two kilometers northeast of the Alpensia Resort. It's pentagonal in design and cost almost €64 million ($78 million) but will have only a short life as it will be dismantled shortly after the Games come to an end.

13:02 Jamaica are always one of the most loved teams at any Winter Olympics. Their team of three athletes is led by flag-bearer Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, from their famous bobsleigh team.

Jamaican bobsledders go Olympic

12:58 The TV camera pans to Mike Pence, the US vice President, who is applauding enthusiastically.

Read more: CAS nullifies lifetime Olympic bans on Russians

Read more: CAS rejects dozens of appeals from Russian athletes

12:52 Entering now are the Olympic Athletes from Russia. Well, the 169 that are allowed to compete following the doping scandal. Their flag-bearer is a volunteer from Pocog, the Olympic organizing committee.

12:45 Switzerland's athletes make their entrance, and there's a lot of them — 170 to be exact. They're all dressed in bright red and cannot be missed. The Swiss will be hoping to add to their Sochi 2014 medal haul of six golds, three silvers and two bronze.

12:42 The United States, the largest nation at the Games, are led out by three-time Olympian and luge world champion Erin Hamlin.

12:40 Incidentally, Korea will be last out as they are the host nation.

12:35 The German team, consisting of 156 athletes enter the stadium. Only four nations — Switzerland, Russia, Canada and the United States — boast more athletes than the Germans.

12:30 The teams are coming out according to the Korean alphabet, meaning Nigeria are the first nation out.

12:20 After a stunning opening the teams are starting to come out. Greece lead the way...

12:10 So far it's been colorful, vibrant and visually a fantastic spectacle.

12:00 CET The Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang are officially underway. The opening ceremony gets off to an impressive start with a dramatic countdown as the lights are dimmed inside the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, before the stage appears to turn to ice ahead of a display of lights and fireworks.

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