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Fireworks as opening ceremony starts for Pyeongchang Olympics

Friday, February 09, 2018

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AFP) — The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony got under way in freezing temperatures and a spirit of rapprochement on Friday after the arrival of the highest level North Korean delegation ever seen in the South.

Fireworks lit up the sky over the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, where North Korea's all-female cheering squad were among the crowd, as the gala event started.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was among the VIPs expected to attend after she became the first member of the ruling Kim dynasty to venture South since the Korean War.

South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, US Vice-President Mike Pence and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's ceremonial head of state, were also expected to attend the opening, along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

After a sudden thaw in ties -- following months of rising tensions and North Korean missile tests -- South and North Korean athletes will march together at the ceremony, behind the blue-and-white Korean unification flag.

Russian athletes will march under a neutral flag after the Russian team was banned from the Games over systemic doping -- although 168 Russians deemed to be clean of drug use have been allowed to take part.

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