After two failed bids, billions of dollars in preparation and a nagging national debate about whether it’s all worth it, the Winter Olympic Games have opened in PyeongChang with a gala ceremony meant to showcase South Korea’s rise from poverty and war to one of Asia’s most modern nations.
Cross-country skier Dario Cologna, who already has three Olympic golds, led the Swiss delegation – the largest ever – into the stadium.
The Swiss athletes were watched by Alain Berset, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year. Switzerland’s target of 11 medals took a hit on Friday when current Olympic halfpipe champion Iouri Podladtchikov, known as I-Pod, pulled out owing to injuries sustained last month at the Winter X Games.
The isolated, rugged mountain town of PyeongChang is situated in the northeastern part of South Korea, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the border with North Korea. It is known for brutal cold and harsh winds during the winter.
Fans and athletes will be left largely exposed to the elements, though organisers are giving the 35,000 fans heated seat cushions, hand warmers and other gear to help ease the chilly conditions.