Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Five Children on Peace Mission Open Games Spectacular; North and South Korea Put on a Show of Unity for Sport

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Five Children on Peace Mission Open Games Spectacular; North and South Korea Put on a Show of Unity for Sport

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Majendie in Pyeongchang and Benedict Moore-Bridger

FIVE children went "on a time travel quest for peace" today as they followed a huge white tiger at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

The tiger, one of the "four guardian gods and protectors of peace", was part of a relatively low-key ceremony with fireworks lighting up the freezing night sky in Pyeongchang, where temperatures had dropped to -5C.

Also on stage was a blue dragon, a vermillion bird and a black tortoise. The mechanical animals were powered by actors and accompanied by a 200-strong troupe of drummers.

The athletes then walked into the stadium waving their national flags, with Great Britain the 52nd nation to enter. Athletes from both North and South Korea carried a Unification Flag.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, in his speech inside the Olympic stadium, focused on the title of the ceremony, Peace in Motion, with performers predominantly dressed in white.

He said the Games as a whole showed "the unique power of sport to unite people". Watching in the stands were US vice-president Mike Pence and the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jongun, Kim Yo-jong, who was expected to be one of three torchbearers to light the Olympic Flame at the end of the ceremony.

Mr Pence's presence followed an unprecedented war of words between President Trump and Kim Jong-un over the North's numerous missile tests last year, including rockets they claimed could reach the US mainland. Kim Yo-jong, dubbed the "princess", smiled for the cameras as she became the first member of Pyongyang's ruling dynasty to set foot in the South since the Korean War in the early Fifties. She is on a US sanctions list over alleged links to human rights abuses in North Korea.

The trip, together with 90-year-old ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam, was the diplomatic high point of an Olympics-driven rapprochement between the rival Koreas, which are technically still at war.

It emerged today that Mr Pence had skipped a dinner hosted by the South Korean president at which he was due to share a table with Kim Yong-nam.

Mr Pence reportedly briefly encountered him but they tried to avoid directly facing each other at the gathering before the opening ceremony.

Organisers want the Games to be known as the "Peace Olympics". Winter Olympics chief Lee Hee-Beom told the Standard the Games were a "historic moment for the region". He said: "Thirty years on since the Seoul 1988 Summer Games, we are once again putting our country on the world map, bringing nations together to celebrate sport and peace.

"North Korea participating in Pyeongchang 2018 reinforces our message of peace and shows that sport transcends politics. It is a very signifi-cant moment in our history and I wish them, and all the competing athletes the very best of luck. …

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