The games are seen as a pivotal moment for relations between the two countries, who have been officially at war since 1950. Democracy Now, 9 February 2018
An amazing country
By Roger Childs
Korea has given the world many things which we now take for granted. To name a few: heated greenhouses, sauna, moveable metal printing (two centuries before Gutenberg), ironclad ships, celadon pottery, taekwondo, mask dancing, and …. Samsung products. (Any at your place?)
Back in the early 1950s South Korea was one of the poorest nations on the planet. Today it is one of the richest and most innovative.
As we know, dark political clouds hang over the Korean peninsula, not helped by the fulminations of President Trump and the intransigence of the North’s dictator, Kim Jong Un.
However the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, which opened in spectacular fashion, may be the start of a thawing in relations across the 38th parallel.
One of many highlights of the brilliant opening ceremony, was South and North Koreans marching as one team. In line with Olympic protocol as the host nation, they entered last. All the competitors and officials were dressed the same, and everyone carried a simple flag showing the whole Korean peninsula in blue on a white background. They received a tumultuous welcome from the 35,000 spectators.
Greece had come in first behind a young woman in white carrying a stylised tree with the country’s name on it, accompanied by a young girl bearing a lantern coloured Korean blue and red. This set the pattern for the entrance of all the teams.
They paraded around a central circle lined by dancers, working hard to keep warm!, and this area would provide the focus for most of the opening’s action.
There were many highlights of the march past.
- A number of unexpected countries participating: Eritrea, Togo, Lebanon, Ecuador, Samoa.
- Everyone was wrapped up warm in the open stadium, but the Tonga flag bearer was in a grass skirt with a bare chest!
- Some colourful gear: Slovenes in lime green; Austrians in grey tops and red slacks; Serbs in stylish white, red and blue: Bermudans in red shorts! How about New Zealand? The usual unimaginative, dull black.
Wonderful mix of local culture and special effects
Among the hundreds of participants, five school children played a key role. They started out crossing through many winter landscapes and met a friendly Korean tiger in a cave. Then in the stadium they were transported on an ancient raft through their history.
Later they imagined what the future would hold, and their ambitions were “realised” on screen – a surgeon, an artificial intelligence developer, a pop star, a calligrapher and a holograph specialist.
There was plenty of superbly synchronised dancing, drum playing and acrobatics. Two of many magical musical moments were the singing of John Lennon’s Imagine by four of Korea’s top artists, and a stunning rendition of the Olympic anthem by a famous local opera singer.
Koreans have some of the most beautifully designed and colourful traditional dress in the world, and this featured in many of the items.
The central circle, allowed the techno wizards to have full reign, and they constantly changed the colours, designs, shapes and patterns, inwards, outwards and upwards.
There were the expected fireworks, light changes and use of drones, as well as clever transformations such as the stairs folding up after the final two torchbearers ran up to where a famous medal winning ice dancer was waiting to light the Olympic flame.
Then, once she has lit the coals, the flame climbed up a layered framework to burst out in a cauldron high above.
Another stunning feature was to see 100 skiers flanking the torch bearer down a slope while 1218 drones formed patterns in the sky, including the famous five Olympic rings.
A great start
Competition is now underway in sports ranging from ice hockey and biathlon to speed skating and luge.
If the opening ceremony is anything to go by, it’s going to be compelling viewing over the next weeks!