With Vice President Pence leading the applause, the jubilant, flag-waving American team marched with 3,000 athletes from 91 other countries into the stadium in frigid Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the opening ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The U.S. athletes marched in to the pulsating beat of “Gangnam Style,” South Korean pop music star Psy’s 2012 smash hit, as the vice president and his wife, Karen Pence, applauded, along with others in the U.S. delegation. Luger Erin Hamlin carried the U.S. flag.
The two-hour-plus ceremony was a festival of lights, drums, music, fireworks and pageantry, including giant puppets of birds, a dragon and a white tiger, that unfolded before the 35,000 spectators in the mountain resort town. At one point, 1,200 white-lit drones formed the Olympic rings over the stadium.
Athletes and spectators alike were bundled for the subfreezing temperatures — except for the spirited Tongan flag-bearer, Pita Taufatofua, a cross-country skier who marched bare-chested, in traditional Polynesian garb, as he did at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
Athletes from North and South Korea marched together under a white unification flag and lit the Olympic cauldron, despite their deep political divide and North Korea’s menacing nuclear and ballistic missile program.
The North Korean regime is under worldwide sanctions to abandon its arms buildup. Nonetheless, the two Koreas came to a last-minute agreement to cooperate on the Olympics. Pence said earlier in Seoul that the world should not be fooled by the North Korean “charm offensive” and that the U.S. will intensify sanctions on North Korea to force the regime to end its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.