The 2018 Winter Olympics have officially begun. The opening ceremony was held Friday, February 9, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with all the spectacle that the event typically entails — from the lighting of the Olympic cauldron to the Parade of Nations to a series of performances that showcase the host nation’s history and culture.
Notable moments from the ceremony included North Korea and South Korea briefly setting aside political tensions to march in the Parade of Nations under a unified flag, a performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” lots of K-pop music — including the legendary Psy crossover hit “Gangnam Style,” which provided the score for Team USA’s entrance during the Parade of Nations — and the return of the shirtless Tongan flag bearer who took the Rio Olympics by storm two years ago.
The images below capture some of those moments, and much more.
In the Parade of Nations, North Korea and South Korea marched together under one flag
The two countries displayed rare unity during the Parade of Nations, marching together under the Korean unification flag, which depicts the entire Korean Peninsula in blue against a white backdrop. As Vox’s Alex Ward explains, “That’s rare, but not unprecedented. The two countries first displayed the flag at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships and most recently at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy.”
Tonga’s fan-favorite oiled-up flag bearer made a grand reappearance
Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua, who first made headlines during the 2016 Rio Olympics, when he served as the country’s flag bearer and marched shirtless during the opening ceremony, has returned to the Olympics once again. At the Rio Olympics, he competed in taekwondo — but at the Pyeongchang Olympics, he’ll compete as a cross-country skier. The common denominator is that he’s still the country’s flag bearer (indeed, he’s Tonga’s only Olympic athlete), and even though the temperature in Pyeongchang is much, much colder than it was in Rio, he still marched shirtless in the Parade of Nations.
“President Donald Trump” and “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un” were briefly in the house
Though this pair of impersonators weren’t an official part of the opening ceremonies, they turned plenty of heads — according to USA Today, they “wandered through the lower section of the crowd near the media seating section shortly after the United States team finished its walk in the Parade of Nations” and “created a major stir” before eventually being thrown out.
One particularly notable performance featured John Lennon’s “Imagine” and a theme of peace and unity
“Imagine” was sung by South Korean folk singer Jeon In-kwon, indie-rock singer Ha Hyun-woo, and K-pop singer Ahn Ji-young.
The peace and unity theme was especially apparent as performers surrounded the “Imagine” singers in the shape of a giant dove
In the stands, Vice President Mike Pence sat just feet away from Kim Jong Un’s sister
As Vox’s Alex Ward explained, the seating arrangement was history-making for multiple reasons:
First, Kim is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to enter South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. It was already a huge deal that she would attend, as it possibly signals thawing tensions between the two Koreas.
And second, US and North Korean officials this high up the food chain rarely if ever get this close to one another — let alone in the midst of a tense nuclear standoff of the kind we’ve seen over the past several months.
So to have Pence and Kim sitting just a few feet away from each other — at one of the world’s most high-profile events, no less — is noteworthy.
K-pop music was an integral part of the ceremony
Several popular songs were featured, accompanied by rousing, highly choreographed, and sometimes acrobatic performances.
When it was time to light the Olympic cauldron, two players from Korea’s unified hockey team carried the torch up a set of illuminated steps
North Korea’s Jong Su Hyon and South Korea’s Park Jong-ah held the torch together as they delivered it to the platform where the cauldron stood.
The torch was handed off to South Korean figure skating gold medalist Yuna Kim to do the cauldron-lighting honors
Before lighting the cauldron, Kim treated the crowd to a brief, artistic performance.
Fireworks erupted outside the stadium as the cauldron ignited
This burst was one of many that took place during the ceremonies.
At one point, more than 1,000 drones were used to create the Olympic rings over the stadium
The American delegation entered the stadium while Psy’s “Gangnam Style” played
American luger Erin Hamlin served as the flag bearer.