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Despite the pageantry of the opening ceremony, politics still takes center stage

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

This theme began with the sounding of a traditional temple bell at the center of the darkened stadium and then continued with vignettes of music and dance.

The children walked through a stylized landscape of animals and trees, finding their way to a heavenly altar. Organizers made generous use of images from the country's history and mythology.

The last time Korea hosted the Olympics -- the 1988 Summer Games -- things were not so harmonious.

A few months before the competition began, Korean Air Flight 858 was downed in a bombing later attributed to North Korean agents. The run-up to these Games has been almost as tense, with North Korea's Kim and President Trump trading barbs and raising concerns about nuclear conflict in the region.

But in a New Year's Day speech, Kim made a public overture toward South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Last-minute negotiations paved the way for North Korea to send a contingent of 22 athletes across the border to compete in five sports.

The countries, who had marched together in past Games, went a step further this time by agreeing to form a unified women's hockey team.

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"For me, coming from a formerly divided country ... this is really a very special and emotional moment," said Bach, who was a medal-winning fencer for Germany.

The IOC leader was embroiled in another controversy this week involving the Russian contingent.

Russia had been barred from competing as a nation because of a widespread doping controversy. Individual athletes were invited to participate as "neutrals" if they could prove they had not used performance-enhancing drugs.

At the opening ceremony, scores of these "Olympic Athletes from Russia" took part in the Parade of Nations wearing outfits that bore no national markings. Not everyone was happy with the arrangement.

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