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Winter Olympics opening ceremony sees historic handshake

09 February 2018

Moon wanted to use the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang as a way to engage with North Korea, to show the world - and the United States in particular - that old-fashioned diplomacy still has a role to play, even with Kim Jong Un's belligerent regime.

But when the North Korean athletes took over, it became a more austere affair.

Unlike Pence, Abe shook hands with the North's titular head and chatted briefly with him.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed that 13 African athletes will be competing at the Winter Olympics, which got underway on Feb 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea. US Vice-President Mike Pence, who was seated near to the North Korean representatives at the opening ceremony, vowed only this week to tighten sanctions on the North.

Kim Yo Jong didn't attend the reception for VIPs before the Opening Ceremonies, but she was in the VIP box for the big event, dressed in a black coat and hat.

Thousands of spectators, including a squad of more than 200 North Korean cheerleaders, filled the frigid stadium awaiting the start of the opening ceremony, when the two Koreas will march together under one peninsula flag for the first time in more than a decade.

Vice President Mike Pence, chosen to lead the US delegation, stood as the American contingent of athletes entered the Olympic stadium, but according to the Associated Press, did not stand and applaud when athletes from the two Koreas walked together.

All will discover what they share - a passion for sports, competition and, in most cases, the joyfulness of youth.

Moon has embraced the Games as an opportunity for a thaw in tensions, calling them "Olympic Games of peace".

Skeptics say North Korea is using the Olympics to poke holes in the US -led global sanctions against the country and buy more time to further advance its strategic weaponry.

Luckily, the opening ceremony had slightly warmer weather at over 20 degrees Fahrenheit. "We're sitting as close as we can and trying not to move a lot to save our energy", said the 60-year-old. The moment lasted only seconds, but the child's brief appearance thusly turned him into one of the Winter Olympics' first bonafide memes.

Only 22 North Korean athletes are taking part in what look set to be among the coldest ever Winter Games, whose build-up has been marked by confusion and bitterness over the participation of Russian athletes following a state-sponsored doping scandal.

Pence stood to welcome the USA athletes as the Korean pop hit Gangnam Style blared around the stadium, sparking the "Horse Dance" in the crowd and among the volunteers.

But the athletic aspect of these games has been overshadowed in the buildup to the opening ceremony by a frenzied, increasingly momentous fire-hose spray of political developments.

Winter Olympics opening ceremony sees historic handshake