By Talia Dennis

Peace. Harmony. Unity. These three themes were conveyed to a stadium filled with thousands of people who represented over 90 countries during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

At least one of these themes was present in each part of  Friday’s program.

The performance contained pre-recorded segments that combined host country South Korea’s ancient and modern cultures. Drawings in a cave came to life and art became a virtual reality. This magical experience felt like it was right out of a Disney World commercial.

In an early portion of the live performance, giant puppeteered animals graced the stage and demonstrated a balance of peace and harmony among children and nature. The first animal that appeared was a white-striped tiger with piercing blue eyes.

Unlike western cultures, the tiger is not an animal feared by the people, but rather a part of nature that can protect the people from evil, said Katie Couric while co-hosting the NBC telecast.

Commentary from Couric and Mike Tirico was incredibly beneficial during this part of the ceremony. The live stream, which aired at 6 a.m., was only natural sound from the stadium. The performance was intriguing, but for someone who is not well-versed in Korean culture, there was no context for what it represented to the host country.

The explanations about the symbolism and culture demonstrated during the ceremony felt adequate in quality and quantity. It allowed for a greater appreciation for everything exhibited.

Between the performances focused on the ancient culture and the technological future, was the Parade of Nations.

Keeping with tradition, Greece entered first and a unified team made up of North and South Korean athletes came in last because the host is always the final team to walk in. Other countries marched in alphabetically based on the Korean alphabet.

The best entrance was Jamaica, whose athletes danced their way into the stadium.

Per traditional Bermuda fashion at the Olympics, its single competitor, coach and assistant coach wore Bermuda shorts despite the 28-degree-Fahrenheit temperatures.

Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua went shirtless and covered in oil, repeating his entrance from the Summer 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. He competed in taekwondo that year but switched to cross-country skiing for this year’s games.

The U.S. had a fairly standard entrance, walking out to Gangnam Style-a viral South Korean pop song by PSY

Due to a doping scandal back in 2014, Russia was banned from competing in the 2016 Summer games; however, those who passed a drug test are allowed to compete under the Olympic flag. They are called the Olympic Athletes of Russia, not Russian athletes during the games.
The overall tone of the ceremony felt hopeful and euphoric. The technology used in the performances added gorgeous details, like the starmap dome above the stage, and helped further the transition from old to new.

During the ceremony, especially when the athletes came in, smiles seem contagious.

Despite the political conflicts surrounding North Korea’s participation in the games, watching the ceremony was a way to escape world tensions. For a few brief moments, it was all about incredible athletes coming together for competition.

The message of peace, harmony and unity was echoed throughout the performances, speeches and entrances. A North and South Korean athlete walked the torch to the cauldron together, as another symbol of unity and peace. It is a theme that hopefully will be maintained after the cauldron of fire is extinguished.

The next two Olympic games will be held two other major Asian cities. Tokyo will host in the summer of 2020 and Beijing, which held the summer games in 2008, will host the winter of 2022 games.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Olympic’s Facebook page.

Talia is a sophomore journalism major and history major and can be reached at tdennis1@terpmail.umd.edu.

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