The opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Friday may have been shinier and sparklier than real life, but it reflected the hopes of the international community—from the technological shows that make the unlit Olympic ring snafu from Sochi that much more embarrassing to the more significant gestures of peace between nations that have been in conflict for years.
The symbolism for peace was perhaps the most powerful aspect of the opening ceremony. Not only did U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sit only seats away from North Korean president Kim Jong-un’s sister, but the North and South Korean teams walked in together as simply “Korea.” Rather than wave both flags, they shared a single flag with a blue map of Korea on a white background, the colors symbolizing harmony, balance and integrity. Although it’s impossible to imagine that athletes parading in together can make up for the fear circulating the international community over weapons threats and human rights violations, the gesture indicates that both countries are looking for peace, though a long-term solution will be more difficult to broker.
As the host, the two Koreas walked in last. Adhering to tradition, in the Parade of Nations, Greece walked in first, as the home of the original Olympic games. All the nations in between followed in alphabetical order, but according to the Korean alphabet. In South Korea, the United States is known by a different name, pronounced “mee-gook,” which means “beautiful country” so the U.S. team walked in with other “M” countries.
The technology at the ceremony was also stunning, from the stadium lights that made the whole arena look like Times Square on steroids to the crazy Intel light display that got a shout out during every commercial break. The 1,218 shooting star drones flew around to form first a snowboarder, and then the Olympic rings in the sky above the arena, like something out of a futuristic movie.
Another part of the ceremony was the beautiful mix of art and technology that told the story of Korean history and culture using augmented reality alongside large floats and sculptures. Although the augmented reality, which was only visible on television and not for viewers in the stadium caused some controversy, the melding of technology and artwork strongly reflects Korea’s culture. The show took two years to make, using the help of 1,200 people.
Plus there was some pretty impressive technology marching in with the athletes, such as the battery-powered heated jackets that the American team wore. The American athletes walked into the iconic music of “Gangnam Style” by PSY, armed with selfie sticks. The 242 athletes from the U.S. make up the largest team to ever participate in a winter olympics.
In contrast to the U.S. team’s efforts to stay warm, Pita Taufatofua’s of Tonga made a shirtless entrance. A taekwondo athlete-turned-cross-country skier, Taufatofua marched into Rio shirtless and oiled in 2016 and decided to do the same thing in Pyeongchang, despite the thirty degree weather. Tucker Murphy of Bermuda also took a page out of the summer fashion magazine by walking into the ceremony in Bermuda shorts.
Other notable entrances include the Olympic Athletes from Russia, wearing neutral gray coats. Given Russia’s unpopular doping habits discovered after the Rio olympics, the country was banned from competing, but individuals, once proving themselves innocent of athletic dishonesty, were allowed to compete. They compete behind the Olympic flag, and should they win gold, the Olympic anthem will play.
Although the Olympics may simply be a sporting event to some, they’re also a chance for the world to get together and show each other what they can do. Each team will be doing just that for the next two weeks, in the rinks and on the slopes, but it’s also something Korea had the opportunity to do with the opening ceremony.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.