The Winter Olympics officially started in South Korea on Friday with the opening ceremony at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.
Temperatures were frigid but relations between the two Koreas are thawing, at least temporarily, as the Winter Olympics officially start in South Korea with the opening ceremony at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. Twenty-two North Korean athletes will participate and bring along 230 cheerleaders, the two Koreas will field a joint women’s ice hockey team and the athletes marched in the opening ceremony under one flag. If political tensions have eased, anxiety has broken out on another front: security guards have been hospitalized with norovirus and military personnel has had to move to handle security.
As the Games get underway, here’s what you need to watch.
Opening Ceremony Expresses Hopes for Peace
Competition has already begun in curling, luge and a few other sports in Pyeongchang, but the 2018 Winter Games do not get off to their spectacular start without the opening ceremony, which was televised on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.
Organizers say the ceremony revealed the pain of the divided Koreas and their people’s hope for peace, Nikkei Asian Review reported. The director of the opening ceremony, Yang Jung-woong, described it as a winter fairy tale seen as a dream in which children find peace through adventure.
"Peace is the most important message, as we are the only divided country in the world," said Song Seung-whan, the general director of the opening and closing ceremonies. "We want to let the world know about the pain of division and our desire for peace."
Luger Erin Hamlin led the U.S. contingent. The 31-year-old from New York, competing in her fourth and likely last Olympics, was named the team’s flag bearer on Wednesday. She won a bronze medal in singles luge in Sochi, the first American to ever medal in the event.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience. Accompanying Pence was Fred Warmer, the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after he was imprisoned in North Korea and returned home in a coma. Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, an increasingly influential figure, will be the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South.
It's All Going Downhill
Racing at nearly 90 miles per hour, the men's downhill Olympians hit the slopes of the Jeongseon Alpine Center for their third training run. Medal favorites include Norway's "Attacking Vikings," including 2014 bronze medalist Kjetil Jansrud who clocked the fastest time at the 2018 Olympic test event. Team USA's best hope is Bryce Bennett, who is ranked 18th in the World Cup standings.
Sgt. Sweeney Has a Need For Speed
Suffield's Emily Sweeney is a luger competing in her first Olympics. But she is not the first member of her family to slide on the luge track of an Olympic Games. Her older sister, Megan, was an Olympic luger in Vancouver in 2010. Emily has already seen action in Pyeongchang and had the third fastest times in the women's singles after two training runs. She is the roommate of 2014 bronze medalist and this year's Team USA Opening Ceremony flag-bearer, Erin Hamlin. If all that isn't enough, Emily is also a Sergeant in the U.S. Army National Guard.
Emily Sweeney completed her first training run Saturday. You'll be able to catch her again during the Women's Singles run Monday.
Teenagers Represent U.S. in Slopestyle Snowboarding
Canadian and Norwegian snowboarders are the favorites in both men’s slopestyle and big air snowboarding, but two first-time Olympians gave the U.S. a chance: teenagers Chris Corning and Red Gerard.
Corning, 18, ranked 14th in slopestyle in the 2016-17 World Snowboarding Tour. His quick rise began the previous season. Gerard, at 17, could become the youngest American snowboarder to win a medal. He is two months younger than Chloe Kim, the favorite in women’s halfpipe.
But Corning shutout at the Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Qualifying after two disappointing runs.
At the last Winter Games, Ryan Stassel finished 14th in slopestyle.
Norway's Marcus Kleveland qualified for the snowboard slopestyle final after scoring an 83.71 on his first run to lead all riders in Heat 1.
A Unified Korean Team Takes the Ice
A preliminary women’s hockey match features a unified team from North and South Korea versus Switzerland at 7 a.m. ET. It will be the first time that the two Koreas have competed together at the Olympic Games. The team is made up of 12 North Koreans and 23 South Koreans; 22 players can compete in any game.