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Rediff.com  » Sports » PIX: Diplomacy under microscope at Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

PIX: Diplomacy under microscope at Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

Last updated on: February 09, 2018 19:25 IST

'Peace' Games get underway

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Performers during the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. Photograph: PyeongChang 2018/Twitter

The Winter Olympics sparked to life in a vivid, colourful ceremony of fire and ice in South Korea on Friday, and the diplomacy was just as choreographed in the stadium where leaders from nations that are sworn enemies sat close together.

 

South Korea, which is using the Pyeongchang Games to break the ice with North Korea, seated its president alongside US Vice President Mike Pence, with two of the North's most senior officials sitting in the row behind.

President Moon Jae-in, who wants to harness the Olympic spirit to pave the way for talks over the North's nuclear and missile programme, shook hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister as well as the North's nominal head of state.

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Performers during the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony. Photograph: PyeongChang 2018/Twitter

The South is still technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, and the United States and the North have recently swapped nuclear threats.

Underlining Moon's efforts to re-engage with the North, the opening ceremony followed the story line of children wandering through a mythical, snowy landscape and discovering a world where people live in peace and harmony.

The Olympics have provided some respite from years of tense relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, though just hours before the ceremony hundreds of anti-North Korean protesters scuffled with riot police outside the stadium, burning North Korean flags and pictures of its leader, Kim Jong Un.

Winter Olympics

IMAGE: Beau-James Wells of New Zealand carries the national flag with delegates during the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony. Photograph: Rob Schumacher/Reuters

South Korea's frigid February, where temperatures have plummeted to minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) at night, has come as a shock to the system for athletes and visitors alike in the leadup to these Games, prompting concerns about hypothermia at the opening ceremony.

The weather was a little milder than forecast on Friday, but spectators still huddled near heaters, holding hot packs and slurping down steaming fishcake soup to ward off the chills.

Winter Olympics

IMAGE:  Eric Frenzel of Germany carries the national flag. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Bundled up in a scarf, mask and knitted hat, with hot packs tucked into her knee blanket, office worker Shin Hye-sook said she and her three colleagues were coping with the cold.

"It’s okay unless the wind blows," said the 60-year-old. "We’re sitting as close as we can and trying not to move a lot to save our energy."

Korean figure skater Kim Yuna lights Olympic cauldron

Kim Yuna

IMAGE: Kim Yuna, South Korean Figure Skater lights the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Photograph: Frank Fife/Getty Images

South Korean figure skating superstar Kim Yuna lit the Olympic cauldron.

Kim, who won gold at the Vancouver Games in 2010 and silver in Sochi four years later, performed a short skating routine before receiving the torch and sending flames shooting up to the cauldron.

The Pyeongchang Games run from Feb. 9 to 25.

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