They marched in excellent formation, row upon row, facet by facet, synchronized, uniformed, heads straight, eyes ahead, arms swinging, boots stomping, goose stepping.
Oh, wait, sorry. Fallacious parade.
That was the one 100 miles north in Pyongyang a day earlier. This one was in Pyeongchang, on the southern facet of the planet’s most heavily-fortified border. North Koreans have been marching, too, however they weren’t in formation. There have been no Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles rolling previous on transporter erector launchers with 9 axles.
The athletes parade Friday on the Opening Ceremony for the XXIIIth Winter Olympics occurred in a 35,000-seat stadium tucked into the mountains of Gangwon Province.
North and South Koreans entered as one, arm in arm, laughing, smiling, dancing. One man was on the shoulder of two others, slipped off and was picked up once more. Every carried a tiny white flag with a lightweight blue silhouette of your entire Korean peninsula, and not using a Demilitarized Zone snaking throughout its midsection like a surgical scar.
The opposite nations had a single flag-bearer. Korea had two, one from the North, one from the South, greedy the flag pole collectively, waving it vigorously as they strode ahead.
It was the type of magical, emotional second that solely the Olympics can ship, a gesture of hope and reconciliation amid separation and battle, a refrain of concord in discordant occasions, a crackling hearth on a frigid night time.
“A really particular second for Korea,” stated bobsledder Gained Yun-jong, certainly one of Korea’s flag-bearers. “It’s particular that we’re right here, peaceable and collectively.”
Talking with the Korean athletes instantly behind him, like a common backed by his troops, Worldwide Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach stated: “United in our range, we’re stronger than all of the forces that need to divide us.”
On and on it went, the photographs, the phrases, the music. The message.
The 2-hour ceremony, referred to as “Peace in Movement,” adopted the journey of 5 kids via time and area “on a quest for peace.” South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the son of North Korean refugees, earnestly shook fingers with members of the North Korean delegation as their athletes circled the stadium ground under. A North and South Korean member of the unified ladies’s hockey group climbed the stadium’s stairs collectively and collectively handed the torch to determine skating gold medalist Yu-na Kim to dramatically mild the caldron whereas gliding throughout an elevated sheet of ice.
4 Korean singers belted out John Lennon’s iconic “Think about” whereas 1,000 residents from Gangwon Province — the one one which straddles each side of the border — shaped a large dove of peace round them with candles flickering at midnight night time.
The final time the South Koreans integrated the dove of peace in Opening Ceremony, on the 1988 Summer season Video games, it did not go so effectively. Reside doves have been launched within the air, and a few flew up and landed on the sting of the enormous caldron as three athletes with torches rode a rising platform skyward to mild it.
Torches touched caldron, and also you had the kind of Korean barbeque organizers did not intend. (Or as somebody, in an ode to Prince, commented beneath a YouTube video of the incineration: “That is what it feels like, when doves fry.”)
2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics opening ceremony
Whether or not Friday’s dove meets a figuratively related destiny, time will inform. Historical past provides a doubtful forecast.
The noble thought of the interlocking rings untangling political battle is rooted within the Olympic Truce of historic Greece, a mandate engraved on a bronze discus and saved within the Temple of Hera that assured protected passage for athletes and spectators to Olympia for the Video games. What historical past forgets is it lasted for a month or two, perhaps three on the most, after which warring states and provinces have been free to renew combating (and infrequently did).
North and South Korean athletes joyously marched as one on the 2000 Summer season Video games in Sydney, and what did that get us? Lower than twenty years later, relations are as chilly as ever.
A day earlier within the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un watched troopers march previous his viewing stand in an enormous army parade in all its insidious pomp and circumstance, moved ahead this 12 months — what a coincidence — from its traditional April date. In response to army observers, it featured a brand new short-range ballistic missile that seems to be a cross between the Russian Iskander and South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2. Additionally on show have been Hwasong-12 missiles that sailed over Japan final 12 months in checks.
It was held concurrently a North Korean delegation to the Olympics was attending a welcome reception.
“So long as imperialism is current on the Earth and the U.S.’s hostile coverage towards North Korea continues,” Kim advised the assembled (and shivering) lots in a speech, “the mission of the Korea Individuals’s Military is to be the sturdy sword that protects the nation and other people, and peace can by no means change.”
On Friday, U.S. Vice President Michael Pence was in Pyeongchang, standing within the VIP field in a stadium formed ominously just like the Pentagon, watching athletes march previous. Subsequent to him was his invited visitor, Fred Warmbier, whose son was detained on a sightseeing journey in North Korea, jailed for 17 months, allegedly tortured and returned house shortly earlier than his demise.
The North and South Koreans will play good on snow and ice for the following 16 days, becoming a member of to type a single ladies’s ice hockey group that can lose video games and soften hearts. Individuals will cheer. Individuals will hope.
The Olympics nonetheless characterize a strong ideally suited, however they’re additionally an more and more corrupt and morally bankrupt motion, unable to stem the scourge of doping, unwilling to forestall the Video games from changing into monetary behemoths that render their hosts bancrupt. They not could also be stronger than all of the forces that divide them.
Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium was constructed completely for opening and shutting ceremonies within the Winter Video games and the Paralympics that comply with. With no future use for a 35,000-seat facility in a distant, mountainous area, it’s constructed of metallic bleachers and modular seats, and surrounded by non permanent tents.
The ceremony program Friday calls it “an area for interplay, friendship and peace.” After the flame is extinguished on the Paralympics subsequent month, the area for interplay, friendship and peace will probably be dismantled.
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