PyeongChang Opening Ceremony celebrates culture

The XXIII Olympic Winter Games were officially opened on 9 February with a dazzling Opening Ceremony that celebrated culture, history, unity, youth and peace.

Picture by Getty Images

Following the spectacular two-hour programme, Opening Ceremony Director SONG Seung-whan (KOR) expanded on his vision for the Ceremony.   

"The intention was to show the past, present and future of Korea," Song explained of the opening acts. "The inspiration was the murals of the Goguryeo Tombs, some of which are in North Korea, some in South Korea, displaying legendary animals and dancers. If you are Korean, you would have seen the murals in your textbooks. In the Ceremony, five children go back in time with a time machine and meet nature and the animals in a peaceful time in the past."

Further illustrating the connection between the past and the future, eight athletes carried the Olympic flag around the Stadium. While one side of the flag was carried by accomplished Olympians, the other was held by young, rising stars.

Towards the end of the spectacular show came the moment everyone had been waiting for, as Korean figure skating idol Yuna Kim skated around the Olympic cauldron high above the Stadium.  

"We actually had 30 rings that connected the cauldron and the floor," Song said, explaining how the country's sporting history was incorporated in the cauldron. "The 30 rings come from the ring that was in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Thirty means the 30 years, which is 30 years ago when we had the Olympic Games in Seoul."

"As the last torchbearer, I was able to participate in the Ceremony, and as an athlete myself it was a great honour for me. I have skated on ice for more than 10 years, but it was the first time I have skated so high up," Kim said of her Opening Ceremony skating performance at the press briefing.

Kim received the Olympic flame from two players from the unified Korean women's ice hockey team: Jong Su Hyon (PRK) and Park Jong-ah (KOR), who ran up a steep incline to hand over the Olympic torch. 

"Because there was no rehearsal in advance, I was nervous that there might be some issues when there was the handing-over of the torch, and it was the first time I met with them, so when our eyes locked we just smiled and greeted each other with our eyes," Kim said. "These are the athletes who are going to be participating in the Games, so it was even more meaningful and even more emotional."

Song intended the steep journey up the final section of the Olympic Torch Relay to the Olympic cauldron to reflect the uphill battle athletes face when becoming Olympians.

"The final five metres of the stairs – which was very steep to symbolise the challenge and the hardship of becoming an Olympian, with the two athletes, one from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and one from the Republic of Korea – was a really symbolic moment," Song said. "We couldn't rehearse that moment, it made me nervous, but I believe it was climatic."

Indeed, the unity was felt around the Stadium by athletes from all over the world, including one of the world's most successful skiers.

What better way to celebrate such a special moment, than by sharing it with the next generation cheering you on back at home.