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Opening Ceremonies at PyeongChang Olympics: A unified Korea, big U.S. gloves and an oiled Tongan

From a shirtless, oiled Tongan man to North and South Korea entering under a unified flag, here's what you missed from the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

The Winter Olympics officially began with the Opening Ceremonies in PyeongChang on Friday. Given the cold temperatures, the 2-hour 18-minute running length was blessedly short for those in attendance.

There’s often a bit of controversy when it comes to picking each team’s flag-bearer. For the United States, the decision came on a coin flip that granted the honor to Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. athlete to medal in singles luge four years ago in Sochi, who plans to retire after these Games.

But that news was not welcomed by Shani Davis, similarly worthy as a two-time gold medalist and the first black athlete to win gold in an individual Winter Olympic event.

Davis skipped the Opening Ceremonies, which took place Friday morning in Korea, USA Today reported. Had he been named the flag bearer, he would have attended, sources told the paper.

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“I am an American and when I won the 1000 m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event,” Davis tweeted “@TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018 #PyeongChang2018”

Davis’ decision may not have been entirely in protest. He had an afternoon training session that would have made attending the ceremonies difficult.

Yuna Kim lights the flame

Yuna Kim, who won figure skating gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games and silver four years ago in Sochi, lit the Olympic torch on skates after taking the flame from two members of the joint Korean women’s hockey team (one each from South and North Korea).

Kim, the first South Korean to medal in figure skating, is now retired from the sport and a massive celebrity in her home country.

Pence remains seated for the Koreans

Vice President Pence attended the Opening Ceremonies and, according to The Washington Post Tokyo bureau chief Anna Fifield, did not stand like the others in the VIP box when the Korean athletes — made up of athletes from South Korea and North Korea marching under a unification flag — entered the stadium.

Fred Warmbier, father of the late Otto Warmbier, an American student who was jailed in North Korea, was not in the box with Pence but rather sitting with the U.S. athletes, according to Fifield. But Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean President Kim Jong Un, and North Korean head of state Kim Yong Nam were sitting in the same VIP box with Pence.

Taking orders from President Trump, Pence walked out of an Oct. 8 NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after members of the 49ers took a knee during the national anthem.

At the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics on Feb. 9, Vice President Pence was seated near Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: YONHAP/The Washington Post)

“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us,” Pence said in a statement at the time. “While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.”

Pence did stand when United States’ athletes entered, cheering their arrival. At least one person sitting nearby wasn’t as enthused.

Pence also arrived late to a VIP reception before the Opening Ceremonies.

He’s back!

Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan taekwondo athlete who set the internet ablaze when he carried his country’s flag during the Opening Ceremonies at the Rio Olympics in 2016, is back, this time as a cross-country skier. Once again, his appearance in these games did not disappoint. Just as in Rio, he appeared shirtless and in native garb, his torso suitably oiled as he carried the Tongan flag.

The temperature was a few degrees below freezing.

Nobody marches better than the Jamaicans

Confused by the order of nations?

It’s a little confusing to our English-speaking eyes and ears to see Colombia and Chile followed by Kyrgyzstan, but there’s a method the IOC uses here. Greece gets the traditional first spot as the birthplace of the Games, then all the nations follow alphabetically according to the language of the host nation. Finally, the host nation — this year a contingent of both South and North Korea marching under a unification flag — strolls out last.

Mending fake fences

President Trump and Kim Jong Un are not at the Opening Ceremonies, but their lookalikes are.

Alas, they were forced to take their diplomacy off-premises.

“Gangnam Style,” of course

The Opening Ceremonies are lovely, but viewers who are accustomed to the extravaganzas put on during the Summer Games may find PyeongChang’s Opening Ceremonies a bit underwhelming.

There was the obligatory appearance of Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” playing as the United States’ athletes marched in, wearing their odd cowboy-style gloves.

You can see more Olympic outfits, including close-ups of the Americans’ big gloves, right here.

Who’s No. 2?

The United States has the most athletes in these Winter Games with 241 at the moment. Canada comes in second, then Switzerland and Olympic Athletes from Russia (the former Russia, before the doping scandal). Good on the Swiss, given the size of their country. On the other hand, if they can’t dominate winter sports (and men’s tennis), what’s the point of all that snow and mountainous terrain?

It’s cold in PyeongChang

It’s hovering a few degrees below freezing at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. Yahoo’s Jay Busbee gives you an idea what that’s like.

And they’re moving the show along at a nice clip:

The athletes from noted Winter Olympic power Bermuda were not cowed by the weather, coming out in red shorts.

A visitor from the north

A notable presence in the crowd is the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. She has journeyed to South Korea for an unprecedented three-day visit that will include attending the Opening Ceremonies and a lunch meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House in Seoul.

Kim Yo Jong is considered to be Kim’s closest confidant and is a senior cadre in North Korea’s ruling party. She is the first of the family dynasty to visit South Korea. Her grandfather, Kim Il Sung, traveled to areas occupied by his troops south of what is now the Demilitarized Zone during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Opening Ceremonies or Ceremony?

The Olympics celebrates one world, coming together to celebrate the things that unite us, like sports, rather than our differences, so why is everyone watching the Opening Ceremonies? It’s really one big ceremony rather than the individual ones for each country, right?

NBC goes with Opening Ceremony, but here at The Post, we run with Opening Ceremonies. So there you have it.

15 of the best photos from the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies

A general view shows fireworks during Opening Ceremonies. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

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