Friday, 19 October 2018 | News today: 3

Winter Olympics 2018: South and North Korean athletes unite during opening ceremony

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Hosts South Korea produced a show of unity with neighbours North Korea during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Their athletes entered under the same flag during the parade, after months of tension in the Korean peninsula, the BBC reported.

“We are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us,” declared Olympic president Thomas Bach.

Lizzy Yarnold carried Great Britain’s flag, while Russian athletes came in under the neutral Olympic flag.

Russia is banned from the Games, and the forthcoming Paralympics, as a consequence of the 2016 McLaren report which claimed more than 1,000 of the country’s sportspeople benefitted from state-sponsored doping.

The International Olympic Committee invited 169 Russians who have met the anti-doping criteria to compete as independent athletes and their team will be known as the ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’.

North Korea ice hockey player Chung Gum Hwang and South Korean bobsledder Won Yun-jong were joint flagbearers.

An estimated 35,000 spectators inside the Olympic Stadium were given seat warmers, wind shields, hats and gloves with temperatures as low as -6C during the two hour-long ceremony.

Senior political figures from North Korea and USA – two of the countries at the centre of the political row – were both present.

Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, was sat one row behind USA vice-president Mike Pence in the VIP section.

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in said in the build-up: “I would like to take this opportunity to convey greetings and a message of friendship from the people of Korea.

“The Seoul 1988 Summer Games paved the way for reconciliation between east and west – breaking down the wall of the Cold War. Thirty years after hosting the Summer Games, the Pyeongchang Olympics has commenced with a hope for peace from everyone around the world.

“It was with an ardent desire that the people of Korea aspired to host the Winter Games, the only divided nation in the world. It mirrors the Olympic spirit in its pursuit of peace.”

North Korea announced it was to send a delegation to Pyeongchang in January after it met its South counterparts in their first high-level talks in more than two years.

The team consists of 22 athletes who will compete in five sports, although their women’s ice hockey players will compete in a unified Korean team. They played together for the first time last Sunday in their only practice match, which they lost 3-1 to Sweden.