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Korean unity, historic handshake as Pyeongchang Olympics open

AFP  |  Pyeongchang (South Korea) 

The two Koreas marched together and South Korea's shared a historic handshake with Kim Jong Un's sister as the Pyeongchang Winter opened in a spirit of intense rapprochement today.

At a glittering but sub-zero ceremony, South and North Korea brought the crowd to its feet as they entered behind the blue-and-white Korean unification flag.

South Korean Moon Jae-in shook the hand of a smiling Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as he entered the VIP seating section, and again as the Korean athletes marched.

It cemented what has been a rapid improvement in Korean ties since -- after months of fierce nuclear rhetoric and missile tests -- agreed last month to attend its first in the South.

Kim Yo Jong, the first member of the North's ruling dynasty to venture South since the Korean War, forms part of the highest level delegation ever to cross the border.

South and last marched together at the 2006 Winter in They also made the symbolic gesture at the opening of the 2000 and 2004 in and

"You will inspire us all to live together in peace and harmony despite all the differences we have," said Thomas Bach, before Moon declared the Games open.

Kim Yu-na, South Korea's former gold medal-winning figure skater, wore skates as she lit the Olympic cauldron, after being handed the torch by two members of the joint Korean women's team -- one from the North and one from the South.

Lee Hee-beom, of the Games organising committee, said "the North and South have become one through the Olympics".

"Pyeongchang will become the hope and light for everyone that hopes for peace, not only on the Korean peninsula but in and the entire world," said Lee.

In contrast, Russia's athletes entered the ceremony behind a neutral flag after their team was suspended over a doping scandal. Despite the ban 168 "Olympic Athletes from Russia" will compete in Pyeongchang.

Just hours earlier, 47 Russians lost a court bid to take part in the Games after they were left off the list of athletes deemed clean from doping.

Shivering athletes are bracing for one of the coldest Winter on record, with real-feel temperatures plumbing minus 10C at the opening ceremony.

Japan's speed skaters are among the athletes who decided it was too cold to brave the open-air ceremony, while organisers handed out heat packs, blankets and hats to keep spectators warm.

But Tonga's Pita Taufatofua, echoing his eye-catching entrance at the Rio Olympics, happily braved the chill as he appeared stripped to the waist and with his chest heavily oiled.

Expectations are sky-high for an array of stars at Pyeongchang, including American skiers and Lindsey Vonn, while the drama in figure skating centres on whether Japan's "Ice Prince" Yuzuru Hanyu can recover from to retain his crown.

Potential winners also include French flag-bearer Martin Fourcade in biathlon, hoping to add to his two gold medals in Sochi in 2014.

Alpine giant slalom great of is also among the gold medal hunters.

The sensational 15-year-old of will take the spotlight in women's figure skating, where a showdown is expected with her fellow Russian teen,


Another teenage breakout star could be Chloe Kim, 17, the American whose parents are Korean and who is tipped for gold in snowboard as well as adulation by the host nation.

For the South Koreans, major home hopes rest on the slender shoulders of yet another teenage girl.

In short-track speed skating, the 19-year-old Choi Min- jeong is among the favourites for a gold-medal sweep of all four races.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, February 09 2018. 20:35 IST
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