Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea — Let the Games begin!
The Opening Ceremony for the Pyeongchang 2013 World Winter Games takes place early this morning (Tuesday afternoon, Korean time) at the Yongpyong Dome, amid plenty of hype and excitement amongst the Jamaican contingent.
After the nonpareil warmth and hospitality of the young ladies at the Seoul Women's University (SWU), the Jamaicans left for Pyeongchang yesterday, leaving their newly found friends behind and looking to conquer the cold, hard challenges ahead.
Added interest lies in the Jamaican camp because their favoured son, Nigel Davis, is among a small group of competitors given the privilege of running with the Olympic Torch to mark the opening of the Games.
The affable Davis, a speed skating gold medal winner and poster boy for Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ), will share the honour with athletes from nations including hosts Korea, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, and Russia.
Other integral components of the event will see the parading of athletes from over 100 countries, oath recital and several speeches by respective dignitaries from the Republic of Korea and the Special Olympics international movement.
Despite the fiercely cold weather which forced the ceremonial exercise to be moved to the indoor sanctity of the Dome, the Winter Games Organising Committee issued a release promising "a spectacular three-hour event that blends music, pageantry and celebration to welcome the thousands of athletes who have come to compete on the world stage".
The statement added: "...the heart and soul of the ceremonies will come from the 2,300 Special Olympics athletes representing the largest gathering of nations for a winter sports event, the artistic and performing communities in the Republic of Korea and from the ideals of the Special Olympics movement."
Special performances will be headlined by music artistes Lee Juck, Byung Woo Lee, Hobin Park, and notable sports and entertainment celebrities including Yang Yang, Yao Ming, Yunjin Kim, Zhang Ziyi, and Dikembe Mutombo.
While the move to the indoor facility is warmly welcomed by attendants, the Dome's reported 4,500 seating capacity will limit media, families, guests, and supporters the much-desired physical access to the showpiece event.
The Jamaica Observer has been allowed one media personnel into the arena to cover the ceremony and organisers have promised alternative live viewing at the Main Media Centre and also at the Alpensia Concert Hall.
At the 2013 Special Olympic World Winter Games, which will end on February 5, the 18-member Jamaica outfit will compete in floor hockey and ice figure skating.