PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A dazzling display of swirling light and dance energized this sleepy rural corner of South Korea Friday as the 23rd Olympic Winter Games opened amid an urgent message of peace.
Some 35,000 spectators witnessed a tightly-choreographed performance unfold at the Olympic Stadium in near-freezing conditions at what could be the coldest opening ceremony in 24 years. The opening ceremony began with a spectacular show of lights in white, red and blue — the colors of the South Korean flag.
The escalating tension over the Korean Peninsula has temporarily subsided to allow both North and South Korean athletes to march — and for the first time, compete together under a unified flag — even as both nations technically remain at war.
Still, the eyes of the world were not only watching the traditional parade of nations. The United States sent Vice President Mike Pence, while North Korea has dispatched Kim Yo Jong, the sister of authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un, along with his ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam, to represent the isolated nation.
The South Korean government was forced into a delicate position not to offend either VIP camp. Pence and his wife, Karen, were seated adjacent to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and only one row in front of Kim Yo Jong. Her brother has repeatedly threatened to attack the U.S.
Before arriving, Pence warned the North Korean regime would try to steal the spotlight during the games for its own propagandist purposes.