Topless Tongan can't upstage Korean charm offensive

Fittingly, spectators making their way to Pyeongchang's Olympic Stadium had to enter through a tunnel of light.

What they got to see once inside was a ray of hope for a divided corner of the world on a bitterly cold night, as the Winter Olympics officially got started.

Athletes wrapped themselves in heated jackets and fans huddled under specially created blankets, meaning one intrepid salesman wasn't pulling in much trade for his flag-bearing wares.

Out on the street, video crews and reporters were left ducking in and out of coffee shops in a forlorn attempt to retain some feeling in hands and feet.

Tonga's flag bearer caught the eye but Korea's unity brought the house down. Pic: Getty

Quite how Tongan Pita Taufatofua, already a cult hero from Rio 2016, braved the conditions to complete a topless opening ceremony double will go down as one of the great mysteries of these Games.

But even he was overshadowed by a moment that could enable a fraternal warmth to glow over this event during the next two weeks.



While the lead-up to the opening ceremony was overshadowed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport's rejection of final appeals from excluded Russian athletes, there was no denying the moment the world had come to see: North and South Korean competitors walking together under a unified flag.

Greeted by easily the loudest roar of the night, their entrance side by side was an uplifting sight that seemed impossible mere months ago amid heightened tensions in the region.

And that was not the only symbol of conciliation dominating the airwaves.

Television screens are filled with images of Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, her every move and motion being scrutinized and commented on.

The visiting Samjiyon Orchestra has also enjoyed plenty of exposure, as it warmed hearts the night before on the coast in Gangneung, belting out the hits from local favorites to the theme from "Phantom of the Opera."

A charm offensive from each of the neighbors is undeniably in full, welcome effect.

Now, though, it's time for politics to step aside, as 2,952 athletes from 92 countries around the world compete for medals in 102 events.

While plenty of tickets have been shifted, they are not quite sold out just yet.

But if the passion shown on the opening night is anything to go by, we could be in for more memorable moments, and you won't want to miss the chance to take it all in.

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