South Korea on Sunday wrapped up its winter games in Pyeongchang with athletes dancing and singing at the vibrant closing ceremony amid the apparent tension between luminaries from the United States and North Korea.
The closing ceremony exhibited the cutting-edge South Korean technology and an impressive drone show that dotted out the image of the Games mascot Soohorang, a white tiger in the night sky, while the athletes marched into the stadium.
It was a bittersweet moment for Russian athletes, who despite winning the men’s ice hockey final were not allowed to march with their flag as the IOC decided against lifting the suspension on their country.
The Russians were forced to compete as neutral athletes at Pyeongchang, an IOC punishment for years of drug scandals alleging that Russia ran a systematic, state-backed drug-cheating programme.
Paying tribute to the athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said, “You have shown how sport brings people together in our fragile world; you have shown how sport builds bridges. The IOC will continue this Olympic dialogue, even after we extinguish the Olympic flame.”
“In this, we are driven by our faith in the future.”
Bach invited several athletes to join him on stage during his speech, including South Korea’s gold medalist skeleton rider Yun Sung-bin, North Korean figure skater Ryom Tae Ok, American skier Lindsey Vonn and Tongan flag carrier Pita Taufatofua.
Bach ended by calling upon the youth of the world to gather in Beijing in four years’ time for the 2022 Winter Games.
In spite of the divisions between the two Koreas, their athletes marched together at the opening and closing ceremonies under a banner of unification. They also fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team.
Before the ceremony began, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in warmly greeted U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka before offering a brief handshake to the former North Korean intelligence chief and delegation leader Kim Yong Chol.
The South’s presidential office had earlier on Sunday said that members of the North Korean delegation had expressed the North’s openness to talks with the United States.
Kim, who is accused of having been behind a deadly 2010 attack on a South Korean warship was dressed in a long black jacket and furry hat, drew criticism for his appearance and South Korean protesters tried to block his motorcade to the closing ceremony earlier in the day.